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Detecting brain's epilepsy onset area
February 11, 2018, 12:56 pm
A University of Houston biomedical engineer is reporting a dramatic decrease in the time it takes to detect the seizure onset zone (SOZ), the actual part of the brain that causes seizures, in patients with epilepsy. Nearly 30 percent of epilepsy patients are resistant to drug therapy, so they have the option of surgery to remove their seizure onset zones. Given the improved quality of life, most of them opt in, said assistant professor Nuri Ince, the biomedical engineer behind the new technique.
Using oscillating brain waves, rather than observing seizures as they happen, he can locate the SOZ in one hour. Current treatment protocols for detecting SOZ require prolonged monitoring in the hospital for up to 10 days. The new method has the potential to save patients weeks of hospitalization, reduce complications and costs associated with what has traditionally been an arduous, and often painful, procedure.
The engineer compares the process of his new method to a broken bike or car which makes the same sound randomly, yet repetitively. "In a car it's a sound, in a brain it's the high frequency oscillatory patterns from SOZ area that are almost screaming 'I am here!'"
Dr. Ince and his former graduate student, Su Liu, studied pediatric and adult brain patterns, made available by several hospitals and universities in the US, in order to develop a pipeline of machine learning algorithms to interpret the brain waves. After more than two years of study, their algorithm identified the brain pattern.
Critical to the discovery is delineating between the high-frequency oscillations that signify the SOZ from the ones ignited by normal functioning, like movements or talking. The regions can be located very close together, and the overlap between physiological and pathological oscillations is seemingly indistinguishable. That, along with difficulties associated with visual inspection of prolonged invasive recordings, is why current detection protocol ignores the oscillations, tracking only the seizures themselves. 
The current method involves prolonged patient hospitalization, and requires a patient and medical team to wait for seizures to occur to identify their onset location. "Can you imagine monitoring a patient for just one hour, as compared to before when it takes days or weeks?" Dr. Ince asked, still marveling at the saving of both time and money this translational project will bring to the patient and their families.
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