Meet Neuro Event Labs: Quantifying epileptic seizures with computer vision and AI

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting over 65 million individuals worldwide. At worst, epilepsy significantly limits the lives of patients and their families, as approximately one third continue to experience seizures despite medication. In these cases it is crucial to clearly define the type and frequency of seizures, which often occur during the night, in order to compose the optimal treatment combination and to ensure the best possible quality of life. Neuro Event Labs, based in Tampere, Finland, is at the forefront of personalized epilepsy treatment with their cutting-edge AI monitoring technology.

Back in the early 2010s, Jukka Peltola, MD and professor in neurology, was frustrated. While treating in-patients with epilepsy, he was able to investigate seizures first hand, but analyzing how they changed in type, frequency and duration as a response to treatment was difficult. Recording the entire history of occurrences over a given period of time was also not possible. After the patients were eventually discharged, he would have to base his treatment plan on the patients’ or their caretakers’ retrospective descriptions.

Epileptic seizures can be mild or occur during the night when they easily go unnoticed, or come with such strong convulsions that it’s impossible for the patients or their close ones to analyze them in a systematic manner as they occur. Visual analysis and systematically recorded data is a crucial diagnostic asset for treating the often complex condition, but before no technology existed that would have allowed patients to be monitored at home and have produced sufficiently reliable data without causing discomfort or disruption to everyday activities. Neuro Event Labs first started as a side project, but spinned off of Intopalo in 2016.

“The best way to learn about each patient’s condition is to be present when the seizure occurs.”

Epileptic seizures start unexpectedly from a specific location and progress across the body for an unforeseeable duration. During the seizure, the patient’s heart rate, breathing pattern and movements change depending on the type and severity of the occurrence. Based on these parameters, a doctor is able to categorize the seizures, to identify patterns and to deduct the type of treatment that would best suit each condition. “Ask any neurologist — the best way to learn about each patient’s condition is to be present when the seizure occurs. Seeing it on a video comes off second best”, says CEO Kaapo Annala, former Director at Nokia and Microsoft, who joined the team swiftly after the company was founded.

And not just on any video: NEL’s technology captures the patient’s movements and physiological reactions at a sub-millimeter scale, even under a blanket in a pitch-dark room. “Our 3D camera, audio and movement sensors detect the position of your limbs, changes in your heart rate or breathing, and even if you blink at 99.9% accuracy — that’s how sensitive the technology is. Using computer vision, we can see things the naked eye cannot. As if the video technology wouldn’t already be impressive, here enters artificial intelligence: The data is fed into a proprietary neural network that learns from each new epileptic occurrence, and at the end delivers a quantified seizure analysis and a set parameters to support the physician in formulating a customized treatment path for each patient.

“The potential is not limited to epilepsy. One day, the technology could be applied to for example Parkinson’s.”

Neuro Event Labs is currently conducting clinical tests to validate the commercial product and collaborating with neurologists across Europe and the US. The team of 15 engineers and business developers is supported by a community of expert physicians in the field of neurology. “The potential is not limited to epilepsy. One day, the technology could be applied to for example Parkinson’s”, Kaapo explains. “Sleep- and movement-related conditions in small infants, such as cerebral palsy, could also be detected earlier through our solution.”

But this will have to wait, as the team is currently fully focused on building the best possible technology for epilepsy. According to Kaapo, this has also been the most valuable advice from the Maki team. “I have great respect for the Maki team. They cut the BS, steer us away from unnecessary mistakes, and help us to concentrate on things that matter the most. They advised us to keep our focus before expanding into other areas, and it is already paying off”, he praises.

Today, a significant amount of doctors’ work is still based on diaries and handwritten notes. Neuro Event Labs wants to change that. “Our vision is to quantify neurological disorders and to enable doctors to treat patients based on objective data. We want to ensure better and more systematic treatment of complex conditions”, Kaapo says.

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