Computer supports interpretation of EEGs

January 28, 2014

An estimated forty to fifty thousand EEG registrations are made each year in the Netherlands alone. Visually analysing and interpreting all this data costs neurologists and clinical neurophysiologists a great deal of time and expertise, and PhD candidate Shaun Lodder of the University of Twente examined whether a computer could replace them in performing these tasks. Lodder's conclusion: "Although a computer cannot completely replace neurologists, it is certainly very helpful in assisting them." Lodder is affiliated with the MIRA research institute and will defend his PhD thesis on 31 January.

A large part of Lodder's PhD thesis focuses on analysing EEG data obtained from patients suspected of having epilepsy. Together with prof. dr. ir. Michel van Putten and his team, the PhD candidate has developed a user-friendly computer application which can detect epileptiform abnormalities and reveal these to the evaluator which then does not have to visually screen the entire EEG. Lodder: "This is the first time that, in addition to finding new algorithms for diagnosing epilepsy, a practical solution has been found which is suitable for clinical use. What is so unique about this method is that the computer software improves itself based on feedback received from the neurologist. Unfortunately, however, the program does not yet match up to the experience and intuition of neurologists. EEG patterns are often so complex that sometimes even doctors do not agree on specific findings."

Neurologists use an EEG to measure a patient's brain activity. When diagnosing or classifying epilepsy in a patient, a neurologist is looking for certain abnormalities in the wave patterns of the EEG. These can be seen, for instance, in the form of a short high-amplitude peak, followed by a slow wave; this is highly indicative of epilepsy. During an outpatient procedure, a patient receives an EEG lasting 20-30 minutes. Evaluating this EEG demands a great deal of time, expertise and intuition from a .

Lodder developed a user-friendly application that has been tested and evaluated by nine neurologists and clinical neurophysiologists in the Netherlands. The main advantage of the system is that it can save a lot of time. A computer program is capable of analysing the recording within five minutes. Patients are currently screened during only 20 to 30 minutes each time, but in the future this will be possible over a much longer period (by using home registrations, for example), thus improving the diagnoses of doctors. This application serves primarily as a tool for neurologists. Lodder: "With the help of a database of more than two thousand examples of patterns obtained from test EEGs, we are able to classify wave patterns in other EEGs on the basis of similarity. The system presents abnormalities in a decreasing order of probability. The reviewer can then subsequently reject or confirm them. The software is capable of using the feedback obtained from reviewing to improve itself."

Lodder wants to carry out further research via a yet to be created spin-off company in South Africa, his country of birth, in order to improve the accuracy of the interpretation and to develop the system even further with additional EEG properties for the assessment of the EEG registrations. Lodder: "For now this application should just be seen as a tool for neurologists. There is a chance that in the future this software will be capable of fully recognizing certain patterns."

Explore further: Electroencephalography underused investigative tool in hospitals

Related Stories

Hearing brainwaves: Epilepsy EEG sonified

July 16, 2013

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.

Getting to grips with seizure prediction

November 7, 2013

A device that could predict when a person with epilepsy might next have a seizure is one step closer to reality thanks to the development of software by researchers in the USA. Details are to be published in a forthcoming ...

Recommended for you

New insights on how cocaine changes the brain

November 25, 2015

The burst of energy and hyperactivity that comes with a cocaine high is a rather accurate reflection of what's going on in the brain of its users, finds a study published November 25 in Cell Reports. Through experiments conducted ...

Can physical exercise enhance long-term memory?

November 25, 2015

Exercise can enhance the development of new brain cells in the adult brain, a process called adult neurogenesis. These newborn brain cells play an important role in learning and memory. A new study has determined that mice ...

Umbilical cells help eye's neurons connect

November 24, 2015

Cells isolated from human umbilical cord tissue have been shown to produce molecules that help retinal neurons from the eyes of rats grow, connect and survive, according to Duke University researchers working with Janssen ...

Brain connections predict how well you can pay attention

November 24, 2015

During a 1959 television appearance, Jack Kerouac was asked how long it took him to write his novel On The Road. His response – three weeks – amazed the interviewer and ignited an enduring myth that the book was composed ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.