CSIRO to create helmet that detects and prevents brain seizures

Researchers at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will use a A$1 million Australian government grant awarded to Anatomics to develop a smart helmet to monitor brain swelling in stroke and traumatic brain injury patients.

Traumatic brain injuries affect more than 69 million people worldwide, including 700,000 Australians. One in three is likely to develop chronic epilepsy due to the high frequency of seizures.

“Monitoring brain activity post-surgery is especially critical to a patient’s recovery as seizures can regularly occur, often leading to patients developing epilepsy. These seizures are often difficult to detect, with current monitoring techniques only able to be used in a hospital using bulky devices for less than 24 hours, providing a brief snapshot of brain activity during that time only,,” said Dr Umut Guvenc, Researcher of Data61, CSIRO’s data and digital specialist arm.

The new method can continuously monitor brain activity wirelessly, allowing the patient to be mobile, comfortable and more socially active.

Machine learning using data from Monash University will be used to train the device, which can detect even the smallest seizures before transferring the data securely from the helmet to the healthcare practitioner.

During normal brain activity, the implants stay in standby mode to conserve energy while monitoring brain activity for seizures, and are reactivated when a seizure is detected, sampling the signal at higher resolution.

According to Peter Marendy, Senior Research Engineer of Data61, the project aims to use insights from the helmets to develop a brain machine interface that enables clinicians to monitor brain function in real-time.

“Information provided by the implants can be used to inform clinicians about the patient’s brain activity and inform decisions regarding the administering of drugs. “The combination of brain swelling, surgery timing and patient outcome data will enable further study on the ideal time to perform a reconstructive cranioplasty to achieve the best patient outcome – research that will ultimately influence future medical decisions,” said Marendy.

“The smart helmet project builds upon our existing SkullPro technology to develop a remote sensing platform to monitor the injured brain following a decompressive craniectomy,” said Dr Ganesha Thayaparan, R&D Fellow of Anatomics.