Epileptic teen receives first ever seizure-controlling brain implant

The breakthrough device has reduced the 13-year-old’s daytime seizures by 80 percent.

Great Ormond Street Hospital

A 13-year-old boy with severe epilepsy in the United Kingdom has become the first person in the world to receive a brain implant that helps keep seizures under control. Per The Guardian, Oran Knowlson underwent surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London to have the Picostim neurostimulator fitted into his brain to address Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare treatment-resistant form of epilepsy.

Knowlson received the neurostimulator in October 2023 as part of a pilot program run by GOSH in collaboration with University College London, King’s College Hospital and the University of Oxford. Since receiving the implant, which was developed by Amber Therapeutics, Oran’s daytime seizures have been reduced by 80 percent. Previously, his seizures were so severe he required constant care, and would sometimes lose consciousness and need resuscitation.

“For Oran and his family, epilepsy completely changed their lives and so to see him riding a horse and getting his independence back is absolutely astounding,” said Martin Tisdall, the pediatric neurosurgeon at GOSH. “We couldn’t be happier to be part of their journey.”

Tisdall’s surgical team installed the implant by mounting the Picostim to Knowlson's skull and inserting two electrodes deep into his brain until they hit the thalamus. The electrodes were then connected to the neurostimulator, which sends constant, mild electrical current to his brain to prevent or attenuate seizures. Justine Knowlson, Oran’s mother, confirmed as much when she discussed how the implant improved her son’s quality of life.

“We’ve seen a big improvement; seizures have reduced and are less severe,” she said. “He’s a lot more chatty, he’s more engaged. He’s turned 13 and I definitely now have a teenager – he’s happy to tell me no. But that adds to his quality of life, when he can express himself better.”

The Picostim neurostimulator is just one device for seizure treatment being tested. In 2020, researchers in Israel developed a wearable EEG device called Epiness, which can predict seizures up to an hour before they start. Two years earlier, a smart arm bracelet called Nightwatch was created to detect nighttime epileptic seizures and contact the wearer’s care staff when they strike.