|Neurostimulator by Neuropace.|
Approved by the FDA for marketing in 2013, the system seems to be particularly helpful in quieting epilepsies with a one or two foci, or spots in the brain where the seizures start. Electrodes are implanted near those foci--the hippocampus is often one--and deliver a limited shock just to those parts of the brain. A much older technology, called Vegus Nerve Stimulation, or VNS, gives the brain a much more distributed shock that is periodic, and not tied to specific brain activity.
In addition to reducing seizures in about half of the patients who receive them (which is a big deal, since these are very difficult cases!), the RNS may have a side effect not mentioned in the story. Data are constantly being gathered from the brain by the device and are wirelessly downloadable with a wandlike reader that is waved over the skull near the implant. Having a continuous live stream of data from the seizure focus of an epileptic brain presents a huge research opportunity as well as an important clinical one.