At the American Epilepsy Society 2021 annual meeting in early December, brain health startup NextSense came out of stealth mode to announce multiple clinical research partnerships. Biopharmaceutical company UCB is currently investigating epileptic seizure detection using data collected via NextSense’s innovative brain activity-sensing earbuds.
NextSense announced additional collaborations with biotech company Heraeus, UC San Diego, and Emory University on upcoming research projects. The current and upcoming research projects will study how NextSense can help neurologists treat epilepsy, sleep disorders, and other conditions affecting the brain and spinal cord.
According to the World Health Organization, up to 70% of people living with epilepsy could eliminate seizures with appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Yet the unpredictability of seizures and inconvenience of conventional brain monitoring technology makes it challenging for neurologists to tailor treatments to the specific needs of the individual.
A traditional electroencephalography (EEG) machine uses electrodes placed on the scalp to record electrical brain activity. Because these machines are large, expensive machines, patients typically stay overnight in a clinical setting to monitor seizure patterns. They can only provide a “snapshot” of brain activity during a night spent in a place that’s not very conducive to a good night’s sleep. Overnight monitoring and sleep studies can also add considerable costs to epilepsy care.
In contrast, the NextSense biosensing earbuds collect longitudinal EEG data; they are comfortable to wear through the night and at intervals during the day. The NextSense platform is intended to combine EEG data with environmental and behavioral data from smart devices to identify triggers and enable earlier seizure detection.
Although in the early stages of clinical validation, the caliber of NextSense’s research partners suggests the startup could become a disruptor in several areas of healthcare. Some partners have signed intellectual property agreements with NextSense, indicating that both parties expect the research to support the biosensing earbuds entering the medical market. Currently, wearable epilepsy tech primarily uses biometric data from activity tracking sensors found in smartwatches to send seizure alerts. Access to ongoing, real-life EEG data without compromising patient comfort may significantly improve the quality of life for individuals living with epilepsy.