Oran Knowlson of the United Kingdom has become the first person in the world to be fitted with a brain implant to help control epileptic seizures

More on the news

  • Oran Knowlson has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a treatment-resistant form of epilepsy. 
  • The implanted deep brain stimulation (DBS) device, which sends electrical signals deep into the brain, has reduced Knowlson’s daytime seizures by 80%.
  • The trial, known as the Children’s Adaptive Deep Brain Stimulation for Epilepsy Trial (CADET), will now expand to include three more patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
  • The next phase of CADET aims to make the neurostimulator responsive to real-time changes in brain activity, potentially blocking seizures as they are about to occur.

What is epilepsy? 

  • It is a condition that leads to recurring seizures and sees a person experience jerking of arms and legs, temporary confusion, staring spells, or stiff muscles. 
  • It is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
  • Head trauma, tumours in the brain, some infections like meningitis, or even genetics can lead to epilepsy.
  • Despite the availability of numerous anti-seizure medications on the market, 30% of patients remain resistant to treatment.
  • In India, between 3 and 11.9 per 1,000 people suffer from epilepsy, according to a 2022 Lancet study.

How does the device work?

  • The device is a Picostim neurotransmitter made by UK company Amber Therapeutics. The neurostimulator delivers constant electrical impulses to the brain to disrupt or block abnormal seizure-causing signals.
  • The device was surgically implanted in Knowlson’s skull and anchored using screws
  • The doctor then inserted two electrodes deep into his brain until they reached the thalamus — a relay station for all the motor and sensory information. The ends of the electrodes were connected to the neurostimulator. 

The device uses DBS, which is also utilised for movement disorders associated with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions such as:

  • Essential tremor.
  • Conditions that cause dystonia, such as Meige syndrome.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Tourette syndrome.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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