New Apple Watch App Will Aid in Epilepsy Research

The app may one day help predict when seizures are coming

The Apple Watch may become a tool to help those who suffer from epilepsy. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine are using the Apple Watch as a way to capture information about what happens to epilepsy patients before, during, and after seizures.  The plan is to use their findings to better understand the disease.

"Physicians often ask patients to record their seizures. But that can be hard, especially when a patient loses consciousness.

EpiWatch collects data that helps researchers better understand epilepsy while helping patients keep a more complete history of their seizures," said Gregory Krauss, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in a statement on the university’s Hub. "The app also provides helpful tracking of seizures, prescription medication use, and drug side effects—activities that are important in helping patients manage their condition.”

Participants that download the app will be prompted to take surveys, make daily journal entries, and participate in other activities that will help researchers get a better understanding of what happens before, during, and after a seizure. Thanks to the Apple Watch’s  heart rate monitor, accelerometer, and gyroscope, researchers will be able to track changes in heart rate as well as body movement in patients, ultimately gaining a better understanding of the disease.

The Watch app is meant specifically to collect data, and won’t work as a way to predict seizures. That is for now. The hope, however, is that through tracking data researchers will be able to better understand the experience, and how different treatment and medications effect it. That might one day lead to better prediction tools.

Also included within the app is an interactive game , something designed to test a patient’s responsiveness and how it changes after a seizure takes place.

Researchers are currently recruiting participants for the study. In order to participate you need to be at least 16 years old ad own your own Apple Watch and iPhone. Participants need to have been diagnosed with epilepsy, and have had at least one seizure of the course of the pas year.  You’ll also need to be able to open the app on the Apple Watch at the beginning of at least some of your seizures. That detail makes the study particularly well suited to people who experience auras or warning sensations before a seizure takes place.

"We foresee the app giving some parents the confidence to allow their children to play on their own," Krauss says. "For some adults, using it might allow them, for the first time, to live safely alone.”

If you have epilepsy and would like to participate in the study, you can read more and sign up on  Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s site here.

The Apple Watch app is just one of several new apps that have started to take advantage of the Apple Watch's tech to help better understand different diseases.

 Other apps have tacked things like autism and heart conditions, offering insights that might have otherwise required the use of larger monitoring devices.