Stethoscopes are diagnostic tools that allow health care providers to hear what’s going in a patient’s heart, lungs, blood vessels, or digestive tract. Now, a new device – a “brain stethoscope” – developed by researchers at Stanford University in California may soon provide a way to hear brain waves too.
Neurologists and computer specialists at the university designed an algorithm that translates electrical activity in the brain to sound. According to their research, published today in the journal Epilepsia, non-specialists can successfully use this “brain stethoscope” to detect silent seizures, which are epileptic seizures that do not involve physical convulsions.
The researchers used their algorithm to translate 84 brain wave samples from electroencephalograms, or EEGs, into music and played them for Stanford medical students and nurses. Thirty-two of the samples included a feature typical of a seizure. Although they had no training in epilepsy diagnosis, the students and nurses were able to detect seizure activity through sound with more than 95 percent accuracy.