Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine are testing the EpiWatch app, which runs on the Apple Watch, to monitor people with epilepsy and detect seizures before they happen.

The EpiWatch app is the first study of its kind to be conducted with Apple Watch using ResearchKit. The software uses a combination of patient response data and sensor data to detect and measure a seizure.

When a patient feels the onset of a seizure, he or she taps an icon to start the app which, in turn, activates sensors to begin collecting heart rate and body movement data.

About 500 patients are already using the EpiWatch app daily and have agreed to share their usage and seizure data with Johns Hopkins researchers, who hope to use that data to ultimately predict seizures before they happen.

“We think we can detect seizures based on convulsions, or on the ability to respond to the app when the app detects a heart rate change,” EpiWatch Co-Creator and Professor of Neurology, Nathan Crone, told Fast Company.

According to the researchers, uncovering vital biometric markers that show up in the very early stages of the seizures could be key to early detection in other types of epilepsy patients.

“Particularly in the most severe types of seizures, to detect the seizure when the patient’s not even aware of it is our goal. It’s these severe seizures, like grand mal seizures, that can be particularly dangerous to the health of the patient,” said EpiWatch co-creator and Professor of Neurology, Gregory Krauss.

The researchers have been collecting the research data since 2015 and believe they are just a few months away from offering a working seizure detector. Such an app could be a life-changer for people living with epilepsy.

“A seizure detector might encourage patients to go out and do things by themselves maybe that they wouldn’t otherwise do, or maybe their parents would feel more comfortable leaving them alone, or maybe their spouse would be able to leave them alone. That could affect quality of life in a big way,” concluded Prof Crone.

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