Brain Implant to Stop Seizures

Gadgets

Doctors have invented an implant that can be operated by a person who has a seizure and it will be implanted to its brain. / Photo by: Getty Images

 

In the near future, people who suffer from severe epileptic seizures may be able to control or even keep them from even happening using an electronic device that will be implanted directly into the user’s brain. The seizure will trigger a targeted release of a specific brain-signaling chemical that will then stop it before it becomes a problem. As of today, the device has only been tested on lab mice, but the results prove to be quite promising, according to a report published on arstechnica.com

The usual method of treating epilepsy is by way of anti-seizure drugs. The problem with this, however, is that these drugs have serious side effects and that an estimated 3 out of 10 people don’t even respond to them at all. In such specific cases, the use of brain implants may be the option such as Neuropace’s brain implant, which was given the FDA approval for use back in 2013.

Using the Neuropace device involves directly implanting electrodes into the person's brain to deliver pulses of unique electrical activity whenever a seizure starts to come up. It works in the same vein as a pacemaker regulates a person’s heart by sending constant signals to the brain regardless of whatever the organ might be experiencing or doing at the time. The issue with this is that to even get this requires very risky brain surgery that is quite costly as well.

The new implant, however, that was recently developed by a team of French and British scientists, works in a different direction. At the onset of a seizure, the implant uses a very small ion pump to send a neurotransmitter directly to the very source of the seizure, using electric fields to better guide the chemical out of the specified device. This then tells the neurons to stop firing and to effectively stop the seizure, at least in the case of mice at the moment.

Christopher Proctor, a postdoc at the University of Cambridge as well as the lead author on the paper, stated, “The advantage of [targeted] chemical delivery is that the effect on cells is very specific. The neurotransmitters used in this study have well-understood effects on cells, and cells already use them to communicate with each other. So, in a sense, we can communicate with cells in their native language."