Hearing brainwaves: Epilepsy EEG sonified

A simple method of converting the brain wave signals of people living with epilepsy into sound has been developed by a team of researchers at the University of Sydney.

The method, known as sonification, is an auditory display technique for representing a sequence of data values as sound, says Dr Alistair McEwan, who coordinated the team's work.

"An (EEG) records and measures the of the brain. The key brain wave signals associated with epilepsy repeat about five times per second. But this frequency is too low for the to hear, so using sonification we speed up the signal by 60 times.

"At that speed, normal becomes audible and sounds like normal background noise, for example, a murmur of voices and a squeaky computer or air conditioning fan.

"Seizures are easily identified as they are associated with a rapid increase in pitch. They sound like a whoopee cushion," says Dr McEwan.

EEG, or monitoring of , is the best and most common test used to diagnose epilepsy. However, learning how to diagnose epilepsy is difficult, labour intensive and takes years to master. The team's method has been tested on a group of non-experts.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Dr Heba Khamis says: "What is great is that participants in our study at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies spent two hours in a training session where they learned how to audibly distinguish between seizures and some common sounds.

They were asked to perform unaided audio detection of 644 hours of EEG data that contained 46 seizures.

"We found the participants' accuracy in audio detection was very similar to the accuracy of visual detection. And training for visual detection requires a full year of training," says Dr Khamis.

In Australia alone there are as many as 800,000 individuals living with the condition.

Because this audio detection method only requires a few hours of training, it offers an exciting possibility for a person living with epilepsy or their carer to collect information about their condition.

Working in conjunction with the medical specialists, this information would be valuable for assessment and determination of medication regimes.

A patient faced with the frightening unpredictability of epileptic seizures would know that they are in some sense taking charge of their condition.

The researchers hope to take their pioneering research to the next phase of clinical trials and develop a portable EEG system.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New way to detect epileptic seizures

Mar 23, 2011

Researchers at Concordia University have pioneered a computer-based method to detect epileptic seizures as they occur – a new technique that may open a window on the brain's electrical activity. Their paper, "A Novel ...

World-first study predicts epilepsy seizures in humans

May 02, 2013

A small device implanted in the brain has accurately predicted epilepsy seizures in humans in a world-first study led by Professor Mark Cook, Chair of Medicine at the University of Melbourne and Director of Neurology at St ...

Recommended for you

Xenon exposure shown to erase traumatic memories

19 hours ago

McLean Hospital researchers are reporting that xenon gas, used in humans for anesthesia and diagnostic imaging, has the potential to be a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other memory-related disorders.

Stop and listen: Study shows how movement affects hearing

20 hours ago

When we want to listen carefully to someone, the first thing we do is stop talking. The second thing we do is stop moving altogether. This strategy helps us hear better by preventing unwanted sounds generated ...

User comments