A consortium led by Prof. Arn van den Maagdenberg (LUMC) and Dr Roland Thijs (LUMC, SEIN) receives funding of a total of € 1.6 million from ZonMW and Stichting Proefdiervrij for research into epilepsy and migraine. A special feature of the 'Brain@home' project is that for the first time, patients on a large scale are being monitored at home for a longer period of time. This should lead to new insights that enable a faster diagnosis and better treatment of patients with epilepsy and migraine.
The research is part of Medical Delta's scientific program Medical NeuroDelta: Ambulatory Neuromonitoring for Prevention and Treatment of Brain Disease of which Van den Maagdenberg is Scientific Leader. The research is performed together with the research groups of Prof. Wouter Serdijn (TU Delft) and Prof. Chris de Zeeuw (Erasmus MC), and aims to come up with advanced technical solutions for the monitoring and modulation of abnormal brain activity of different brain disorders, namely migraines, epilepsy and autism.
Epilepsy and migraines are common brain disorders with a huge impact on patients. It also has a social impact; for example, an attack can make someone unable to work for a while. Until now, no reliable indicators are available to measure the changing brain activity that signals an upcoming attack. Doctors now base their diagnosis and treatment plan mainly on patient descriptions or, in the case of epilepsy, brain scans in the hospital. Also, these scans are a snapshot in which the environmental factors that can cause an attack are missing, making such research very difficult. Due to the lack of good indicators, diagnoses are missed and incorrect medication is regularly prescribed.
The research project ‘Brain@home’ aims to monitor patients at home for a long time. Neurobiologists, data analysts, epileptologists, headache specialists, clinical physicists and cognitive scientists from various universities and companies, among others, will collaborate with patient organizations on new methodologies to gain more insight into how epilepsy and migraine attacks announce themselves in brain activity. For this purpose, user-friendly wireless EEG caps with light portable amplifiers are being developed that measure long-term brain activity. In addition to measuring with EEG caps, the analysis of smartphone use is also part of the research: the assumption is that patients act less quickly around an attack, thereby revealing changes in brain activity.
Using new techniques and data analyses, the researchers hope to gain new insight and establish indicators that will ultimately enable doctors to make the correct diagnosis more quickly and make good, personalized treatment plans. The new measurement techniques also ensure that the number of animal tests required for brain research can be reduced, the researchers expect.