New AI System Predicts Seizures With Near-Perfect Accuracy

A novel AI design can accurately predict seizures up to one hour before they occur, with 99.6 accuracy

2 min read
Brain illustration
Illustration: iStockphoto

For the roughly 50 million people worldwide with epilepsy, the exchange of electrical signals between cells in their brain can sometimes go haywire and cause a seizure—often with little to no warning. Two researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have developed a new AI-powered model that can predict the occurrence of seizures up to one hour before onset with 99.6 percent accuracy.

“Due to unexpected seizure times, epilepsy has a strong psychological and social effect on patients,” explains Hisham Daoud, a researcher who co-developed the new model.

Detecting seizures ahead of time could greatly improve the quality of life for patients with epilepsy and provide them with enough time to take action, he says. Notably, seizures are controllable with medication in up to 70 percent of these patients.

Daoud and his colleague Magdy Bayoumi are by no means the first people to explore ways to predict seizures. Other research groups have worked on ways to analyze brain activity using electroencephalogram (EEG) tests and have used the data to develop predictive models. However, each person exhibits unique brain patterns, which makes it hard to accurately predict seizures. Previous models were designed to do this in a two-stage process, where the brain patterns must be extracted manually and then a classification system is applied, which Daoud says adds complexity to the model.

In the new approach, described in a study on 24 July in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems, the features extraction and classification processes are combined into a single automated system, which enables earlier and more accurate seizure prediction.

Furthermore, the researchers incorporated another classification approach whereby a deep learning algorithm extracts and analyzes the spatial-temporal features of the patient’s brain activity from different electrode locations, boosting the accuracy of their model. And finally, EEG readings can involve multiple “channels” of electrical activity, so Daoud and Bayoumi applied an additional algorithm to identify the most appropriate predictive channels of electrical activity; this also speeds up the prediction process.

The researchers developed and tested their approach using long-term EEG data from 22 patients at the Boston Children’s Hospital. Although this is a small sample size, the results proved exciting for the team. Not only is their model very accurate, at 99.6 percent, but it also has a low tendency for false positives, at 0.004 false alarms per hour.

The system does require some setup before it can produce such results. “In order to achieve this high accuracy with early prediction time, we need to train the model on each patient,” says Daoud, noting that training could require a few hours of non-invasive EEG monitoring around the time of a seizure, including during the seizure itself. “This recording could be [done] off-clinic, through commercially available EEG wearable electrodes.”

With the software component complete, Daoud says the next step is to develop a customized computer chip to process the algorithms. “We are currently working on the design of an efficient hardware [device] that deploys this algorithm, considering many issues like system size, power consumption, and latency to be suitable for practical application in a comfortable way to the patient,” he says.

An abridged version of this post appears in the January 2020 print issue as “AI Predicts Seizures.”

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This CAD Program Can Design New Organisms

Genetic engineers have a powerful new tool to write and edit DNA code

11 min read
A photo showing machinery in a lab

Foundries such as the Edinburgh Genome Foundry assemble fragments of synthetic DNA and send them to labs for testing in cells.

Edinburgh Genome Foundry, University of Edinburgh

In the next decade, medical science may finally advance cures for some of the most complex diseases that plague humanity. Many diseases are caused by mutations in the human genome, which can either be inherited from our parents (such as in cystic fibrosis), or acquired during life, such as most types of cancer. For some of these conditions, medical researchers have identified the exact mutations that lead to disease; but in many more, they're still seeking answers. And without understanding the cause of a problem, it's pretty tough to find a cure.

We believe that a key enabling technology in this quest is a computer-aided design (CAD) program for genome editing, which our organization is launching this week at the Genome Project-write (GP-write) conference.

With this CAD program, medical researchers will be able to quickly design hundreds of different genomes with any combination of mutations and send the genetic code to a company that manufactures strings of DNA. Those fragments of synthesized DNA can then be sent to a foundry for assembly, and finally to a lab where the designed genomes can be tested in cells. Based on how the cells grow, researchers can use the CAD program to iterate with a new batch of redesigned genomes, sharing data for collaborative efforts. Enabling fast redesign of thousands of variants can only be achieved through automation; at that scale, researchers just might identify the combinations of mutations that are causing genetic diseases. This is the first critical R&D step toward finding cures.

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