Just like a pacemaker controls abnormal heart rhythms, researchers at Rice University and the Texas Medical Center are seeking to create a device that controls the electrical abnormalities that cause epileptic seizures.
PIÂ Behnaam AazhangÂ (pictured), PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University, and co-PI Nitin Tandon, MD, adjunct assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice and assistant professor of neurosurgery at UTHealth Medical School, have received a three-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for epilepsy research.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder where clusters of nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally, causing seizures. Around 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy.Â Roughly 30%Â of epilepsy patients do not respond to treatment with medication, and the only effective alternative is surgery to remove the seizure onset zone in the brain.Â
â€śSurgery carries a risk of impairing or damaging cognitive function, so creating an alternative option is critical to the welfare of millions of patients,â€ť Aazhang said.
Scientists at both institutions will work together to develop algorithms that will optimize the development of an implantable device. The device will deliver low-frequency electrical stimulation to the seizure onset zone. Once the prototype is developed, the group would pursue clinical trials.
â€śThis is the first reparative, real-time, and selective network modulation to treat a debilitating disease,â€ť Aazhang said.
The project will also give undergraduates the opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary, experimental research.Â
â€śThe work we are doing, jointly as engineers and medical doctors, is truly multidisciplinary,â€ť Aazhang said. â€śWe use signal processing and machine learning ideas and couple that with neurological know-how.â€ť