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Taiwan team creates chip to control epilepsy


(Source: Taiwan Today 2014-2-27)

A team at Hsinchu City-based National Chiao Tung University has created a chip that can be implanted in the brains of epilepsy sufferers, bringing a fit under control in 0.8 second and boasting a world-record success rate of 92 percent, NCTU said Feb. 26.

Taiwan has 200,000 sufferers, with more than 70 million worldwide. About 30 percent of these cases do not respond to drugs, necessitating surgical removal of the affected brain area that can have serious side effects such as impairment to memory, vision and movement.

The team, led by former NCTU president Wu Chung-yu, implanted a chip with its own power source measuring 0.3 centimeters by 0.5 centimeters into the brain of an epileptic rat. As soon as the brain begins to produce irregular electrical activity, heralding the onset of a fit, the chip produces countering impulses and bring the fit under control.

“Human clinical trials should start within three years,” Wu said. “The device is cheaper than a mobile handset to produce. This is great news for those whose epilepsy cannot be treated by drugs, as they will not have to undergo the risks of surgical intervention.”

Professor Ker Ming-dou, head of NCTU’s College of Phonotics Engineering, said the chip also has further practical advantages.

“Besides being tiny and fast, the chip is the most effective in the world and can be controlled by an external device, such as a circuit board in a hatband, and recharged at will. It has lifelong endurance with no need for subsequent surgery to replace the battery. It can also be used in the treatment of other diseases caused by abnormal brain electrical activity such as Parkinson’s and depression.”

In 2013, the research won the Distinguished Technical Paper Award and Demonstration Session Certificate of Recognition at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, California. NCTU plans to set up a company to help doctors develop clinical applications of the device.