Engineer are helping to treat one of the scariest medical conditions. Stopping epileptic seizures. Today, on Engineering Works!
Epilepsy is what’s called a seizure disorder. Epileptic seizures range from blank staring for a few seconds to a few minutes to convulsions or unconsciousness. It’s pretty scary, both for the people having a seizure and those who love them. It affects almost three million people, more than Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Together.
We know the seizures are connected to abnormal electrical activity in the brain, but beyond that we don’t know much.
Engineers are working with doctors and brain researchers to develop tiny devices that could be implanted in the brain near the place where the abnormal electrical activity that’s related to seizures. The idea is that the devices could detect electrical signals involved in seizures in the first fractions of a second they appear. And automatically deliver mild pulses of electricity.
These mild jolts often make seizures less severe or block them altogether. The idea is a spinoff from heart research which developed implanted devices called – defibrillators – that detect dangerously abnormal heart rhythms – fibrillations – and shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. Engineers and doctors are looking into other ways implantable devices could be used to prevent epileptic seizures. Everything from one that cools the brain to another that automatically delivers anti-seizure drugs.
Our brain electricity is running down for today, and we’re done. See you next time.
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Start the discussion: Implanting therapeutic devices in the brain is pretty mind-boggling, but it’s a long way from the only work on implantable devices. We already have implantable pumps to deliver insulin automatically for diabetics. What else is out there?