Medical Moment: Using artificial intelligence to determine epileptic driver safety

Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 5:31 PM EST
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(WNDU) - About three million American adults have epilepsy. Every state has different requirements when it comes to driving with the condition.

Now, researchers at Yale University are using the power of artificial intelligence to help more accurately assess a patient’s safety behind the wheel.

There’s a huge sense of freedom when you’re behind the wheel, but it’s also a skill that requires you to avoid distractions.

“Even a momentary lapse for a few seconds in attention can be very dangerous when you’re on the road,” said Hal Blumenfeld, MD, a neuroscientist at Yale School of Medicine.

For people with epilepsy, medication or DBS may control the severity of seizures, but sometimes it’s hard to detect brief periods of abnormal brain activity.

“We have a real challenge when people don’t think they’re having these episodes anymore,” Dr. Blumenfeld explained.

Those episodes are called spike wave discharges. Dr. Blumenfeld and colleagues gathered information from a large group of patients who were tested with EEG during a spike wave discharge to see if they could respond normally. Then they fed that information into a computer.

“Basically, we have to teach it to tell the difference between brainwave activity that’s safe and brainwave activity that’s not safe for driving and for responding,” Dr. Blumenfeld continued.

Right now, doctors use behavioral testing to determine if a patient can drive. Using AI, researchers say 65% of the patients who were cleared by behavioral testing would not be able to drive under the AI test, showing that EEG testing may be a more accurate way to predict driver safety.

Dr. Blumenfeld says more studies with information from an even larger number of patients would fine-tune artificial intelligence, making it even more accurate. He says EEG testing can be done in a doctor’s office, which would make it easily accessible for patients.