Tech solutions to help those with epilepsy and their families

By Lisa Marinelli Smith 
NeuLine Health

Rapid advances in personal technology are giving those with epilepsy and their families more peace of mind. 

Wearable tech and other apps warn people about seizure triggers, predict seizures before they occur and even alert emergency contacts if someone has fallen during a seizure and needs help.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects how the brain sends messages to the rest of the body. People with epilepsy experience unpredictable seizures that occur when the brain’s electrical activity glitches, triggering involuntary changes in the body’s movement and function.

Seizures vary in frequency. Some people have one a year, while others may experience several a day. No matter how frequently they occur, they’re unnerving for those who experience them and their loved ones. 

Here are a few ways technology is helping the lives of those with epilepsy:

TikTok and video warnings

Some people have what’s known as “photosensitive epilepsy.” In those cases, exposure to flashing lights at specific intensities or certain visual patterns can trigger seizures. 

Video games have warned their users about potential seizures since the early ‘90s. Late last year, TikTok began to roll out warnings when a particular video has the potential to trigger a seizure.

First, the app warns creators when they produce videos with effects that could trigger photosensitive epilepsy. Then, they introduced an accessibility feature that notifies viewers about a photosensitive video, inviting them to “Skip All” future photosensitive videos.

Apple watch fall alert

If a seizure causes someone to fall, Apple Watch can summon help either from an emergency contact or emergency services. Here’s how it works,

  • If the watch detects a hard fall (while you’re wearing it), it vibrates on your wrist, sounds an alarm and displays an alert. You can choose to contact emergency services or dismiss the alert.
  • If the watch detects that you’re moving, it waits for you to respond to the alert and won’t call emergency services. However, if the watch determines you’ve been immobile for about a minute, it will automatically make the call.
  • After the call ends, the watch sends a message to your emergency contacts with your location, letting them know that your watch detected a hard fall and dialed emergency services.

Wearable predictive seizure alert

Israeli researchers have invented technology that generates a warning about an impending epileptic seizure and then sends the message to the user’s smartphone up to an hour before it happens. 

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University developed Epiness™ using data from EEGs (electroencephalograms), which monitor electrical brain activity. Sophisticated algorithms look at underlying brain dynamics and distinguish between brain activity before an expected epileptic seizure and brain activity when a seizure is not likely to occur, according to Ben-Gurion University.

The technology, which is still under development, requires that users wear head-mounted electrodes.

Blood monitors for seizure warning

Another warning tool under development in Ireland uses changes in the blood to detect when a seizure may occur. The goal is to create an epileptic seizure monitoring device similar to blood sugar monitors used by those with diabetes to warn of a potential seizure.  

Researchers discovered patterns of molecules that appear in the blood before a seizure.

Using blood samples from patients at epilepsy monitoring units in Dublin and Germany, researchers found that fragment levels of three “transfer RNAs” in the blood “spike” many hours before a seizure.

With this information from a prick of blood, those with epilepsy could prepare for a possible seizure to ensure they are in safe surroundings with help on standby.

Sleep monitors

A sleep monitor can detect unusual movements when a child sleeps that may indicate a seizure. When the device detects atypical activity, an alarm sounds and the sleep monitor begins recording live sound and video of the event. 
The Danny Did Foundation whose mission is to prevent deaths caused by seizures, features this device and other technology advances on its website.

Resources:

NeuLine Health offers at-home, ambulatory EEGs. For more information, call NeuLine Health at (844) 212-5321 or visit our website.

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