We recently introduced you to Brady, a Golden Retriever using her time and talents to comfort hospice patients. Now we've learned about more dogs doing good. A group of California-based pooches are part of a clinical trial testing a therapy designed to prevent epileptic seizures.
According to our friends at Mayo Clinic Alumni Magazine, "Mayo Clinic and Medtronic are developing a next-generation epilepsy therapeutics platform that integrates brain implants with local and distributing computing environments to continuously chronicle brain activity and deliver electrical brain stimulation guided by artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms." That's a science-y way of saying that the researchers have developed a device that uses electrodes implanted in the brain to detect oncoming seizures and then prevent them by stimulating parts of the brain.
"Seeing your pet have a grand mal seizure is traumatizing," Gregory Worrell, M.D., Ph.D., tells the publication. Dr. Worrell, an epileptologist in the Department of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, says that "the dogs in this trial — and their owners — stand to benefit greatly" from the new system.
And while "the four-legged Californians are the first to test the epilepsy-management system in real-world conditions," the same system will be used in humans. It seems that people and pooches experience epilepsy in much the same way, and benefit from the same types of treatments. Or, are unable to benefit from them. "Approximately one-third of canines and people with epilepsy are resistant to drug therapy," Alumni reports. "The results of the trial could help the 1 million people who have uncontrolled epilepsy."
Benjamin Brinkmann, Ph.D., a lead engineer in Mayo's Advanced Analytics Services, calls the approach "a new paradigm." Previous research has looked at the effectiveness of "automated seizure detection, electronic seizure diaries, seizure forecasting and electronic brain stimulation to reduce seizures," but this trial is the first to test a system that combines all of those elements.
And while this trial is looking at treatment for epilepsy, Alumni reports that other studies are looking at the device as a possible way to treat disorders including Parkinson's disease, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The potential for this type of treatment "is exciting," Dr. Worrell says. "This trial focuses on a therapy for a specific disease, but there's evidence that brain stimulation can improve, restore and even enhance function. For now, we're pleased to be on the cusp of transforming epilepsy care by using intelligent devices and technology that reliably forecast and deter seizure onset to improve the lives of patients." Whether they have two legs, or four.
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