Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Epilepsy Brain Waves Converted Into Sound

Researchers in Australia have converted EEG reports from epileptic patients into sound making it easier to interpret when a seizure occurred.

Researchers at the University of Sydney have devised a way to convert brain wave signals into sound – a technique that could vastly improve the ability of patients and carers to monitor epilepsy.
The new method is known as sonification and it works by representing sequences of data values as sound.
Dr Alistair McEwan, who coordinated the team’s work, explained that an electroencephalogram (EEG) records and measures the brain’s electrical activity.
He revealed that brain wave signals associated with epilepsy repeat approximately five times per second – a frequency that is too low for the human ear to hear.
Sonification speeds up this signal by 60 times, so that normal brain activity becomes audible and sounds like background noise.
When a seizure occurs, they are easily identifiable “as they are associated with a rapid increase in pitch”, Dr McEwan said.
The sonification method is significantly easier to master than EEG, which is currently the best and most commonly used diagnostic tool for epilepsy.
It takes doctors at least a year to learn how to diagnose epilepsy properly, but the research team found that non-experts were capable of learning how to distinguish between seizures and common sounds after just two hours of training.
Dr Heba Khamis revealed: “They were asked to perform unaided audio detection of 644 hours of EEG data that contained 46 seizures.
“We found the participants’ accuracy in audio detection was very similar to the accuracy of visual detection. And training for visual detection requires a full year of training.”
The findings could have important implications for people with epilepsy across the world, including more than 500,000 patients in the UK, as it may help them to monitor and collect information about their condition.
For instance, parents often do not know whether or not their child has had a seizure in the night, making it difficult for doctors to determine the best medication regime.
By providing information on seizures, the technique could therefore help patients, carers and doctors gain better control over an individual’s epilepsy.
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