Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have just announced that they have discovered a non-invasive way to predict disabling epileptic seizures in advance. While many people with epilepsy are not considered disabled, many do not respond as well to treatment. When seizures are frequent, long in duration, or have disabling side-effects, and persist despite appropriate medication, the sufferer may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

MIT’s new technology reads minute electrical impulses that can be detected through the surface of the skin prior to a seizure. When a wristband containing the new technology has been used in tests, it reportedly has had a 100-percent success rate in predicting generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures. In the past, advance detection of seizures required an invasive procedure.

For many people with disabling epilepsy, an advance warning could literally be a life-saver. At the very least, if the warning were far enough in advance of a seizure, it might offer sufferers the opportunity to take part in activities that may otherwise be restricted, such as driving, swimming and certain types of work. With enough of a warning, many people currently receiving SSD for the illness might be able to obtain meaningful work.

In addition to detecting large seizures, the device can also pick up smaller ones that might otherwise not be noticed, and it can store data that could be vital to developing a full picture of the illness. That could result in more effective treatment.

“We also have found that the size of those responses relates to a very important change in the brain that is believed to be a very dangerous situation,” said the MIT scientist responsible for the device. “So now we’re quite interested in getting a version of this wrist band developed that can alert people to when this particular kind of response is happening.”

In the future, the device may not only be able to predict the seizures but also to prevent them by administering medication or other therapy. The scientists also believe the technology could have applications in the treatment of migraines or stress — or even in assisting with emotional communication for people with autism.

Source: Innovation Trail, “Wearable tech full of potential for health care applications,” Kate O’Connell, April 5, 2013