Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 9 - 2018

Paul Nuyujukian, Bioengineering and Neurosurgery
Jaimie Henderson, Neurosurgery

Approximately 1% of people worldwide and in the US have epilepsy. Estimates suggest that a fifth to a third of people with epilepsy still experience seizures despite medical treatment, significantly impacting their quality of life (cannot drive and often struggle to find permanent employment). This project aims to develop an intracortical brain-machine interface as a new medical device for people with poorly controlled epilepsy. Intracortical brain-machine interfaces are an upcoming class of medical device that records information from the brain using multichannel electrodes, passes that information to an electronic system for interpretation, and then acts on that interpretation. The most active area of research for these devices are neural prostheses, but the technology hold promise for other neurological conditions, such as epilepsy. The proposed device uses intracortical electrodes implanted in the brain to measure the activity of groups of individual neurons. On a per-patient basis, this device would form an algorithm related to the signature pattern of neural activity specific to an individual’s seizures and preseizure activity. It would then continuously monitor for the signature pre-seizure activity and send an electronic alert to the patient and/or care-team in the minutes prior to seizure onset. This ability to predict seizures could categorically change the lives of people with epilepsy. This would open up a wider range of activities and employment options to people who may be otherwise restricted from such activities because of the risk for sudden loss of consciousness. Further, such a device would be the first step towards a subsequent category of new medical device that would act on (instead of just alert about) seizures before they occur in a closed-loop fashion, with the aim of preventing them all together.