Arends JB, van Dorp J, van Hoek D, Kramer N, van Mierlo P, van der Vorst D, Tan FIY. Epilepsy & Behavior 62 (2016) 180-85.


Seizures that occur at night and are not seen by anyone are a major concern. During the seizure, a person could get injured or aspirate (that is, food or fluids could go into the lungs if a person vomited). There is also a low but real risk of a person dying during a seizure.

Obviously, not all people with epilepsy have a bed partner that they can rely upon to help if a seizure occurs. Having another way of letting someone know if a seizure happens can be very helpful for people who sleep or live alone. A pilot study was conducted to see if sounds could be detected automatically during major seizures and could alert caregivers.

Description of Study

Ten adults with epilepsy and intellectual disability who lived in a group home took part in the study. Each person was monitored over 4 weeks with audio and video recording. Samples of sounds during their typical seizures were recorded. The researchers then tried to detect patterns of sounds during their seizures.

Summary of Study Findings

  • The audio detection in these 10 people proved reasonably reliable at detecting either the initial vocalization or noise in a major seizure, bed movements, or snoring typical of the postictal period.
  • For a typical seizure, related sounds were determined based on an individual’s pattern.
  • Major seizures were missed with audio detection when the patient either did not make a sound or the sound was too quiet.

What does this mean?

  • Some seizures are associated with sounds that can be detected by audio recording.
  • Since seizures that occur when a person is alone at night can have serious consequences, being able to reliably detect these seizures could lead to a new approach for seizure detection.
  • More work in this area could potentially lead to a powerful tool to help families and caregivers of people with epilepsy.

Article published in Epilepsy & Behavior, September 2016.

Authored By: 
Amy Z. Crepeau MD
Authored Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Wednesday, November 9, 2016