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Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Adapted for Epilepsy

Philips EEG system

Philips EEG system (Royal Philips)

13 Feb. 2019. An academic-industry collaboration in Europe is evaluating brain stimulation, but without implanting electrodes, as a treatment for one type of epilepsy. The initiative joining researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology, the epilepsy care and research center Kempenhaeghe in the Netherlands, and Ghent University in Belgium is adapting brain stimulation technology designed by medical electronics company Royal Philips, also in the Netherlands.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder where nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures with symptoms ranging from blank stares to tingling sensations to loss of consciousness. World Health Organization estimates some 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, where in many cultures people with the condition face stigma and discrimination. While epilepsy can be treated in most cases, WHO says as many as 30 percent of episodes do not respond to treatment. Eindhoven University of Technology says epilepsy affects some 120,000 people in the Netherlands.

The project called PerStim is exploring the feasibility of extending Philips’s electroencephalogram or EEG system to treat focal epilepsy, a form of the disease with seizures affecting one part of the brain. While deep brain stimulation using electrodes implanted in the brain can treat epilepsy, the electrodes must be placed precisely in the correct location to be effective. Non-invasive brain stimulation could be a useful treatment option, but recent studies show about three-quarters of these electrical currents are dissipated by the skull and soft tissue.

The Philips EEG system has 256 electrodes arrayed over the head in a flexible helmet. While the system is designed to read electrical signals in the brain, it can also send out targeted currents.  Technical research leader on the project Rob Mestrom of Eindhoven University of Technology says in a university statement that the Philips system “offers us the unique opportunity to see more accurately than before where exactly in the brain an epileptic seizure takes place. We can then stimulate precisely that point and measure the effect directly. This gives a personalized approach, because it is tailored to the readings of the individual patient.”

Paul Boon, a member of the neurology faculty at Eindhoven and Ghent universities and the clinical leader on PerStim adds, “When we have located the source of the seizure, we target an electrical stimulus at that spot that is exactly the opposite of the measured activity. As a result, the seizure should be ‘extinguished’.”

The researchers first plan to develop a computational model to locate the focal epilepsy in individuals. That step will help determine the best stimulation patterns, in both alternating or direct current, to address the epilepsy, and then measure effects of the treatment. Once the process is established, the team plans to test it in clinical trials.

PerStim is funded with a €1.9 million ($US 2.1 million) award, and is part of Eindhoven MedTech Innovation Center in which the university, Kempenhaeghe, and Philips take part. The MedTech Innovation Center, which includes other medical facilities in the Netherlands, says it’s building an ecosystem to increase high-tech medical advances from early research through clinical implementation and commercialization.

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