New brain implant warns of epileptic seizures minutes before they happen

brainOne of the worst things about epilepsy is its unpredictability. There is no way of knowing when those who struggle with the condition will have a seizure, nor any way to prepare for one. Or, at least, there wasn’t.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne are working on a brain implant that would be able to warn of seizures minutes in advance, giving their owners the chance to get ready as much as possible. By learning of an oncoming attack beforehand, they can remove themselves from any situation where a seizure would present a safety risk to themselves or others, such as operating heavy machinery or driving a car.

The project is headed up by Mark Cook, with funding from a U.S.-based medical device company called NeuroVista. At first, the implant’s software tracks the brainwave activity of its wearer, so that it can “learn” what kind of activity registers as unusual and potentially preparatory for a seizure. When it has enough data to make that prediction, the device will notify the user as soon as such activity is detected by transmitting a signal to a receiver worn outside their clothing.

In tests, 15 people with epilepsy tried the system for four months, and successfully predicted seizures for 11 of them 65 percent of the time. For two in particular, the device successfully warned of seizures every time one was about to occur, with a rough “warning time” of around four minutes before the seizure begins. “You can’t stop [the seizures],” Cook told New Scientist, “but if you knew one was going to happen, you could prepare… Just being able to predict them could improve people’s independence enormously.”

One unusual side effect of the trial was discovering that the device recorded seizures test subjects themselves weren’t even aware of. One subject in particular believed that he had only suffered 11 seizures during the test period, while information from the device suggested that the number was almost ten times that at 102. Christian Elger, who works at the University of Bonn in Germany, says this isn’t a new phenomenon. Studies suggest that patients tend to only realize of a quarter of their seizures.

Elger is hopeful about the implant’s use in future, noting that it could help with anti-seizure medication, which can take up to 15 minutes to have an effect and are often useless once a seizure has begun. With advance warning, it might be possible to administer medication ahead of time to prevent the seizure in the first place, he believes.

Tests continue to perfect the system; if nothing else, the fact that the system didn’t appear to offer significant predictive benefits for four of the test subjects at all is worth investigating. Still, sooner than later, there may be significant help on the way for their hopes to lead a less dangerous life.


For the Gamechanger charity, comforting sick kids with games isn’t child’s play

Gamechanger is a worldwide charity that helps thousands of children each year, bringing them gifts and video games to keep them entertained during their hospital stay. Yet all started in a garage during a family’s darkest hour.
Home Theater

Here are some common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. But with so many subreddits to choose from, exploring them can be overwhelming. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Product Review

The Nissan Rogue is smart, handsome, and practical. What’s not to love?

Year after year, Nissan’s Rogue compact crossover is a consistent best-seller, outpacing Honda’s CR-V, and even Toyota’s mighty RAV4. We looked for the reasons why people love the 2019 Nissan Rogue, and found them.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.