Study using Apple Watch app to track epileptic seizures finds stress, lack of sleep could be triggers

A preliminary study using the Apple Watch app, EpiWatch, which is built using Apple's ResearchKit to track seizures in people with epilepsy found that triggers are often stress and missed sleep, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) reported. The data will be presented at the AAN's annual meeting next month.

In the 10-month study, 598 people tracked their seizures with the EpiWatch app, which recorded participants' heart rate and movements for 10 minutes when they felt a seizure aura starting. "The app asked them to perform tasks to test responsiveness. After the seizure ended, participants were given a brief survey about seizure type, aura, loss of awareness and possible seizure triggers," the AAN said.

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The study found that 40 percent of the participants tracked a total of 1485 seizures, with 177 participants reporting what triggered their seizures. While stress was linked to 37 percent of seizures, lack of sleep was identified as a trigger for 18 percent of the seizures, with menstruation identified for 12 percent of seizures and overexertion for 11 percent of the seizures. "Other reported triggers included diet, missed medications and fever or infection," the AAN said.

Study author Gregory Krauss said "the data collected will help researchers better understand epilepsy, while helping people with epilepsy keep a more complete history of their seizures." He added that "the app also provides helpful tracking of seizures, prescription medication use and drug side effects." Krauss remarked "our eventual goal is to be able to use wearable technology to predict an oncoming seizure," adding that "the data collected in this study helps us take a step in that direction."

In October 2015, Apple announced that its open source ResearchKit software framework was being used in new studies on autism, epilepsy and melanoma. At the time, the company said the epilepsy study conducted by Johns Hopkins University using the EpiWatch app, which was launched that same month, was the "first study of its kind to be conducted with Apple Watch using ResearchKit."





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