March 20, 2018

Brain Stethoscope Listens For Silent Seizures

By converting brain waves into sound, even non-specialists can detect ‘silent seizures’ – epileptic seizures without the convulsions most of us expect. See video here.

When a doctor or nurse suspects something is wrong with a patient’s heart, there’s a simple way to check: put a stethoscope over the heart and listen to the sounds it makes. Doctors and nurses can use the same diagnostic tool to figure out what’s going on with the heart, lungs, stomach and more, but not the brain – although that could change with a new device.

Josef Parvizi, above, a professor of neurology, Chris Chafe, a professor of music, and colleagues have tested a method for detecting seizures that transforms brain waves into sound.

Over the past several years, Stanford neurologists have been working with a specialist in computer music to develop a brain stethoscope – not a stethoscope per se, but rather an algorithm that translates the brain’s electrical activity into sounds.Now, the same team has shown that medical students and nurses – non-specialists, in other words – can listen to the brain stethoscope and reliably detect so-called silent seizures – a neurological condition in which patients have epileptic seizures without any of the associated physical convulsions. The group published the work March 21 in the journal Epilepsia.

‘This technology will enable nurses, medical students and physicians themselves to actually assess their patient right there and they will be able to determine if the patient is having silent seizures,’ said Josef Parvizi, a professor of neurology and neurological sciences.

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