This story is from the category The Brain
Date posted: 11/08/2007
Purdue University researchers have developed new miniature devices designed to be implanted in the brain to predict and prevent epileptic seizures.
A tiny transmitter three times the width of a human hair is designed to be implanted below the scalp to detect the signs of an epileptic seizure before it occurs. The system will record neural signals relayed by electrodes in various points in the brain, said Pedro Irazoqui ,an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.
"When epileptics have a seizure, a particular part of the brain starts firing in a way that is abnormal," Irazoqui said. "Being able to record signals from several parts of the brain at the same time enables you to predict when a seizure is about to start, and then you can take steps to prevent it."
The most critical aspect of the research is creating a device that transmits a large amount of data at low power. The transmitter consumes 8.8 milliwatts, or about one-third as much power as other implantable transmitters while transmitting 10 times more data.
Another key advantage is that the transmitter has the capacity to collect data specifically related to epileptic seizures from 1,000 channels, or locations in the brain, Irazoqui said.
"The fact that this circuit can deliver such a vast amount of data and, at the same time, be less power hungry than anything else that's out there is what makes this important," he said.
The research represents half of a larger collaboration at Purdue focusing on creating a neuroprosthesis that dispenses a neurotransmitter called GABA and calms the brain once the onset of a seizure is detected. This work is a collaboration between Irazoqui and Jenna Rickus, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.
The technology is designed to prevent an epileptic "focal seizure," which starts in a specific area of the brain but can then quickly spread to the rest of the brain "like a brush fire," Irazoqui said.
"Once you find out where that focal area is, if you know the seizure is about to start you can suppress the seizure," he said.
Rickus has developed a "living electrode" coated with specially engineered neurons that, when stimulated, releases the neurotransmitter to inhibit the seizure. The engineered neurons are living tissue stimulated with a microchip.
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