Worldwide, some one to two percent of the children and a half to one percent of the adults are suffering from epilepsy. The final origin of the disease is difficult to detect but in general, medical experts believe that it is caused by the abnormal electrical activity of neurons in the patient's brain. Since April 1996, NEC Corporation is marketing the SynaPoint software to provide high resolution observation of electrical sources within the brain. In September 1997, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto decided to start a partnership with the company, in order to turn the SynaPoint package into a brain function analysis tool to localize occurrences of epilepsy in the brain of its young patients.
Epilepsy is known to particularly originate with childhood. Drugs unfortunately are unable to cure the illness and are only limited to prevent possible attacks. The best method to treat epileptic patients is the use of surgery. Before proceeding to a surgical intervention, the medical specialist needs to accurately locate and identify the foci of epileptic manifestations in the brain. Subsequently, a number of electrodes are directly attached to the affected areas. As a result, the physician is able to observe the patient for a few weeks. The sick child however is being submitted to severe conditions of mental strain whereas the brain is exposed to the risk of physical damage.
The medical staff of the Hospital for Sick Children therefore has approached NEC to transform the SynaPoint software into a non-invasive, medical tool to guarantee the child's safety and to reduce the stress. The package can run on simple personal computers in the Windows95 environment. The various patterns in the patient's brain are detected through identification of electrical sources, deriving from brain wave patterns observed at the scalp. Doctors at the Canadian Hospital for Sick Children thus were able to precisely identify foci of benign epilepsy of childhood Rolandic spikes (BECRS) in two cases. In one child, the physicians discovered frontal lobe epilepsy and in another one, the Rasmussen syndrome.
In order to confirm the results of the SynaPoint software, the patients were monitored to localize the traces of abnormal neural activity. By means of surgery, electrodes were placed on the identified areas of the brain and fMRI or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans were taken to measure the blood flow in the patient's brain. It was found that this kind of research yielded the very same outcome. Thanks to the success of SynaPoint in the discovery of epileptic foci, NEC is considering to adapt the programme for diagnostic application in cases of Alzheimer's and other diseases, as well as for the design of artificial intelligence in both robots and computers.