University of Ottawa-based researchers will pioneer tests of the technology in Bhutan. While there are two psychiatrists, not a single neurologist practices full time in Bhutan, a nation of 900,000 people with an estimated 10,000 epilepsy cases. The EEG app and device connects 14 electrode leads on the scalp through the headphone jack of a tablet or smartphone to capture the brain’s electrical activity. The data can then be sent via cellular phone network to specialists for interpretation.
The ultimate goal: to enable a community-level primary healthcare worker anywhere in the world to diagnose seizure disorders. In the case of epilepsy, it can be treated with drugs that are both effective and inexpensive (as little as a few cents a day). She sees the tablet/smartphone EEG as an effective solution to the shortage of neurologists in low-income countries.
A screening app device to diagnose and treate epilepsy
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The new screening app, a $300 device, could dramatically raise the global level of diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy, a problem that affects 1 in 100 people — 65 million worldwide, an estimated 80 to 90% of them in developing countries, of which at least 60% go untreated. The high incidence of epilepsy in developing countries is attributed to higher rates of head injuries and certain infections, including cerebral malaria.