By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A Telugu-origin US scientist has developed a
software that will alert epilepsy patients about impending seizures
and thus prevent them from major injuries and health complications.
Dr Sridevi Vedula Sarma, whose parents are from Visakhapatnam, says
the new software to be programmed in an implantable chip not only
detects that an epileptic seizure is about to occur, but also sends
small quantities of electric current to the brain to stop the
impending fits. Dr Sridevi is an assistant professor of biomedical
engineering at the Johns Hopkins in the USA. Recently she won an award
from the US President for her outstanding contribution in early career.
Epilepsy has emerged as a major health concern as those who suffer
from epileptic attacks run the risk of injuries, particularly when
they are driving or working on machinery. Dr Sridevi’s device gains
significance as about 33 per cent of epileptic attacks cannot be
prevented through medication. In such cases, the impending attack can
be prevented by shooting a short pulse of electricity to the brain.
This is what the device developed by Dr Sridevi actually does.
Though there are similar devices in the market, they send electric
current to the brain even when there is no impending seizure. The new
device, however, solves the problem of false alarms, and sends power
current to the brain only when there is the need.
“The new seizure detection software significantly cuts the number of
unneeded pulses of current that an epilepsy patient would receive. It
is very good at detecting when a seizure is about to happen. If you
introduce electric current to the brain too often, we do not know what
the health impacts might be. Also, too many false alarms can shorten
the life of the battery that powers the device, which must be replaced
surgically,” she said.
The device yielded superior results, including flawless detection of
actual seizures and up to 80 per cent fewer alarms when a seizure was
not occurring, she said, adding that her team is fine-tuning it
further. As part of this, Dr Sridevi’s team is using the brain
recordings of more than 100 patients. The system works well with
people suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy.
“We wanted to figure out when would be the optimal time to step in
with treatment to stop the seizure,” Dr Sridevi said. The team has
programmed the system to look for impending epileptic attacks without
setting off false alarms.
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