Mayo Clinic, Medtronic researchers get $6.8M from NIH for epileptic seizure smart device

Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Researchers nabbed a $6.8 million, 5-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop technology to predict, track and treat epileptic seizures. The grant is part of the ongoing BRAIN (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative launched by President Obama.

A multidisciplinary team of neurologists, scientists and engineers from the Mayo Clinic, University of Pennsylvania, University of Minnesota and Medtronic ($MDT) will be part of the collaborative effort, which will receive $1.4 million annually for up to 5 years. The research goal is to develop an implantable device that can record brain activity continuously and can be used to forecast upcoming seizures, as well as to stimulated multiple brain regions in real time to prevent seizures before they occur.

"People with epilepsy live in a constant fear, because seizures strike randomly. This uncertainty seriously impacts their quality of life," Dr. Gregory Worrell, a Mayo Clinic neurologist who leads the Mayo Clinic Systems Electrophysiology Lab and is the principal investigator on the BRAIN grant, said in a statement.

He continued, "They often only have seizures a small percentage of their lifetime, but they must take medication daily, because of the apparent random nature of seizures. Our goal is to be able to reliably predict the occurrence of a seizure. The new technology, coupled with the big data analysis, will also be used for effective brain stimulation to prevent seizures before they ever occur."

Worrell has long investigated microseizures, which occur hundreds of times within the regions of the brain that generate seizures, in epileptic patients. Microseizures are thought to sporadically evolve into clinical seizures and are rare in patients without seizures. Clinical seizures are thought to occur when a critical mass of microdomain activity is reached.

Other areas of Worrell's research into the origination of seizures include high-frequency oscillations, ultraslow/DC potentials and extracellular actions potentials of single neurons. These phenomena are investigated with respect to their spatial and temporal relationship to seizure onset.

The Medtronic researcher named as part of the project is Tim Denison, a Technical Fellow at Medtronic and Director of Core Technology in Neuromodulation. He helps to oversee the design of next-gen neural interfaces and algorithms for the treatment of neurological disease.

Earlier this year, Medtronic released 5-year epilepsy data for its deep brain stimulation implant, which was rejected by the FDA after narrowly gaining a recommendation from an agency panel meeting. The device giant has said again that it will try for FDA approval of its DBS therapy for treatment-resistant epilepsy.

- here is the announcement