slightly smaller than the human thumb has the potential to
dramatically change the lives of people who have epilepsy.
neurostimulation (RNS) is a computer device that, when implanted into
the brain, monitors brain waves 24 hours a day, can detect when a
seizure is about to begin and sends a signal to stop the seizure.
sees a pattern in the brain waves that looks like the beginning of a
seizure, it fires back with an electrical stimulation to disrupt that
abnormal rhythm from continuing," says Dr. Christopher Anderson,
associate professor of neurology and medical director of the epilepsy
monitoring unit at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.
patients who suffer seizures in multiple parts of the brain. While
surgery is an option for some of those patients, others have seizures
in areas of the brain (speech center, e.g.) where surgery is not safe.
RNS is not a
substitute for medication, but rather a patient-friendly complement to
with severe epilepsy can be on two, three, four or even more
anti-seizure medicines, and they all have side effects," Anderson
says. "At high doses, that can be disabling in terms of quality
of life. RNS works in conjunction with medication but doesn’t have
any side effects on cognition or speech or injuries to any of the
After the device
is implanted, a patient is given a laptop computer with a wand, which
when held up to the head transmits recent brain wave activity through
the scalp. The data is downloaded onto an Internet server where
physicians who can change the detection settings by using another wand
can examine it.
we’d check with the patient every couple of weeks to change the
parameters on the device to essentially tweak it to their exact
seizure type," Anderson says. "But as months to years go by
with the device, hopefully we can set the ideal settings for them and
leave it alone."
implant surgeries have been performed at Froedtert with encouraging
results. "Our earliest patient was done in July," Anderson
says. "His seizure frequency is reduced clearly, his quality of
life is better. He’s become more active and actually got a job for
the first time in several years."
developed for RNS opens a range of possibilities for treating other
probably will develop similar devices for all kinds of neurological
and psychiatric diseases," Anderson says. "It’s just
figuring out what the target is for each condition."