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As tech-savvy citizens of the world, we've become accustomed to the idea of a tiny computer chip controlling the functions of a sophisticated device, whether it's a mobile phone, a laptop or an automobile.
But what if an especially "smart" computer chip could control activity in the most sophisticated machine of all – the human brain?
Dr. Taufik Valiante, scientist at the Krembil Research Institute and neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital, is working toward what he calls the "Holy Grail" of epilepsy research – an electronic device implanted in the brain that could monitor brain activity, sense a coming seizure and prevent it from happening, all without the patient's awareness.
It's an innovation that offers new hope for people living with epilepsy, a neurological condition that can be especially debilitating when seizures cannot be controlled by medication. For the 30 per cent of those who have an intractable (drug-resistant) form of epilepsy, brain surgery is often their only treatment option.
But Dr. Valiante's research could offer a less-invasive alternative. In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Engineering, Dr. Valiante is building and testing an implanted electronic device that would reduce the need to remove a part of the brain.
"The idea is that can we actually change brain function, so that if a person is starting to have a seizure, we can push the brain out of that seizure state," he says.
The Krembil Research Institute and the Globe and Mail have teamed up for a special content project designed to highlight the tremendous accomplishments of our scientists and research programs at Krembil. The first of three of magazine in this series focuses on the success stories within the brain and spine program and is now available online.