A new app developed by Japanese researchers for smartphones can alert epileptics at least 30 seconds before a seizure helping patients take precautions in the nick of time and avoid physical injuries due to the neuro condition.
The team of from Kyoto University which developed the system has entered into a partnership with Kumamoto University and Tokyo Medical and Dental University to get the device commercially produced by 2020, the Nikkei reported on Thursday.
The system uses a small sensor placed close to the collar bone or the heart to detect changes in the heartbeat and alert the person about the impending seizures. The device detects changes in nerve cell activity that affect the autonomic nerves that control the heart to predict a seizure.
Once it detects these changes, it wirelessly transmits the signals to the smartphone, which uses a special application to analyse them and determine if the heartbeats are abnormal or different based on the profile built into its database and taking into account normal measurements.
When the heartbeat deviates from the normal baseline, the system alerts the user through a sound or a vibration, giving him at least half-a-second to several minutes in advance.
In the tests conducted on patients at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University, the team was able to correctly detect abnormalities in 5 out of every 6 cases, about 30 seconds and several minutes before a seizure, which is sufficient to take emergency precautionary measures.
However, the system has been tested on patients at rest and the effective use of it needs to be tested on patients involved in active movements and other activities. The developers said the pricing of the system, without the handset, would cost less than 10,000 yen or $85.
Epileptic attacks or fits are caused by sudden excessive electrical discharges in a group of brain cells, and can lead to momentary loss of consciousness or temporary muscular contractions and even intense and prolonged convulsions.
Epilepsy is a disease that has affected 50 million people around the world, according to the WHO.