Brain Implant for Epilepsy

For thirteen years, Oran Knowlson suffered from treatment-resistant epilepsy. Thanks to a new brain implant, he can now look forward to days without seizures.

Oran is the first person to receive this implant as part of a pilot study for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy causing up to 100 seizures a day.

The 13-year-old from Somerset, England, needed constant care since the age of 3. Some seizures were so severe they stopped his heart, requiring resuscitation. After receiving the implant, his mother told the Guardian, “I definitely now have a teenager,” highlighting Oran’s newfound ability to ignore her.

“The future looks hopeful, which I wouldn’t have dreamed of saying six months ago,” she said.

“Epilepsy completely changed Oran and his family’s lives, so seeing him ride a horse and regain his independence is astounding,” said Martin Tisdall, a consultant pediatric neurosurgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, where Oran was treated. “We’re thrilled to be part of their journey.”

During the surgery, Tisdall and his team inserted two electrodes deep into Oran’s brain, targeting the thalamus. Wires were connected to a neurostimulator on Oran’s cranium. Designed by Amber Therapeutics, it delivers constant neurostimulation to suppress seizures by blocking signals from reaching the thalamus. The device can be recharged with wireless headphones.

Oran is one of three children in the pilot study, which aims to recruit another 22 participants with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

“Deep brain stimulation brings us closer to stopping epileptic seizures for patients with very limited treatment options,” Dr. Tisdall added. “We hope to build enough evidence to make this a standard treatment for pediatric epilepsy in the future.”

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