Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by the occurrence of seizures. Epilepsy can often prevent patients from living a normal life since it’s nearly impossible to predict when a seizure will occur. The unpredictability of the seizures makes performing tasks such as driving extremely dangerous. One of the challenges in treating epilepsy is the condition is still not very well understood.
Neurava, a recent startup company from Purdue University, aims to change this fact. Neurava is developing a neck wearable that “records key biological signals related to epilepsy.” None of the press releases we’ve found so far elaborate on what those biological signals are. Though we have some guesses of our own, we’ll leave it to the Hackaday community to speculate for the time being. One of the major hurdles in using biological signals to treat conditions like epilepsy both lies in the accuracy of the measurement itself in addition to how well the measurement correlates to the underlying condition. From the looks of it, Neurava has been working on this technology for a long time and are certainly more aware of these challenges than we are.
Neurava’s wearable includes a few other functionalities we’ve come to expect in this era of smart devices such as wireless data transmission to both the physician and patient, physician dashboard to monitor the patient’s progress over extended periods of time, and in-time alerts in the event a seizure is detected.
Neurava appears to have garnered a bit of publicity in these last few months and are currently securing seed money to help advance their technology. We’ll check in every so often to see how they’re doing.
3D printing has opened up a world of possibilities in plastic, food, concrete, and other materials. Now, MIT engineers have found a way to add brain implants to the list. This technology has the potential to replace electrodes used for monitoring and implants that stimulate brain tissue in order to ease the effects of epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and severe depression.
Existing brain implants are rigid and abrade the grey matter, which creates scar tissue over time. This new material is soft and flexible, so it hugs the wrinkles and curves. It’s a conductive polymer that’s been thickened into a viscous, printable paste.
The team took a conductive liquid polymer (water plus nanofibers of a polystyrene sulfonate) and combined it with a solvent they made for a previous project to form a conductive, printable hydrogel.
In addition to printing out a sheet of micro blinky circuits, they tested out the material by printing a flexible electrode, which they implanted into a mouse. Amazingly, the electrode was able to detect the signal coming from a single neuron. They also printed arrays of electrodes topped with little wells for holding neurons so they can study the neurons’ signals using the electrode net underneath.
This particular medical printing hack is pretty far out of reach for most of us, but not all of them are. Fire up that printer and check out this NIH-approved face shield design.
For those that suffer them, seizures are a dangerous thing. Outside the neurological effects, there is always the possibility of injury from the surrounding environment as well – consider the dangers of having a seizure near a busy road, or even simply a glass table. Some detection methods exist for seizure sufferers, but they are primarily based on detecting the jerking motion of the patient. [akhil2001us] thinks it’s possible to do better – by measuring brainwaves to detect the onset of seizures.
The build is centered around the Neurosky Mindwave headset. This is an off-the-shelf product designed specifically for capturing EEG data. It outputs raw brainwave data which is key for doing proper analysis. The project then uses an Arduino Mega to tie everything together, along with some Sparkfun Bluetooth modules to talk to a cell phone to send an SMS for help in the event of a seizure.
The real difficulty in a project like this comes from developing an algorithm that can reliably detect seizures, as well as a unit robust enough to work in the real world. It’s no use if your headset is detecting a seizure in progress, but the help message is never sent because a wire fell out of your breadboard. It’s considerations like this, combined with the threat of litigation, behind why medical devices are so rigorously engineered and certified. For a proof of concept, however, such concerns are not as important.
We’ve seen Mindwave builds before – brainwave research is an exciting field!