Epileptic Seizure Detector (1)

Our son worried us a bit a couple of weeks ago when he had quite a nasty fit, so I have been thinking about making an alarm to warn a carer that a person in their charge is having a seizure.

There are a few different ways to do this that I have thought of:

  1. Detect Movement using an accelerometer
  2. Detect the sounds associated with the movement using a microphone
  3. Monitor the movement with a CCTV camera and use image processing to detect the abnormal movement.
I am trying option 1 (accelerometer) first, but am working on the CCTV approach in parallel by learning OpenCV.
Because our son is autistic, it will be very difficult to get him to wear a device, so I hope to detect movement through the floorboard where he sleeps, but this will be much less sensitive than detecting it directly.  Therefore, this first proof of concept version is working by attaching the accelerometer to a limb to see if I can get it working.  The issues with it are:
  1. We do not want false alarms caused by normal movement – I am addressing this by using a fourier transform to filter out only a range of frequencies of movement, in the hope that I can select the characteristic shaking of a seizure, but not detect too much normal movement.
  2. A quick shake should not raise an alarm, so to set off an alarm the acceleration in the appropriate frequency band should be more than a threshold value for a specified length of time (3 sec currently).  This will give a warning ‘pip’.   If the shaking continues for 10 sec, it raises a buzzing alarm.
  3. Sensitivity will be a problem for detecting it through the floor – will need to work on that another evening.
The system uses an Arduino microcontroller, connected to a Freescale MMA7361 three axis accelerometer.   The accelerometer is a tiny (5mm x 3mm) surface mount device, so soldering it is a challenge – you can see how I did it here.
To enable data logging so I can tune it to get the frequency response, threshold etc. the arduino is also connected to a real time clock module and a SD card module.
The completed prototype is shown below:

The code is in my Arduino Projects github repository.
And here is a simple demonstration of it working – you can hear the warning ‘pip’ and the alarm ‘buzz’ in the background when I shake my arm to simulate a seizure. 
Still quite a bit of work to do – build it on stripboard to make it more robust, then try attaching it to the floor and seeing if I can detect any signal from someone shaking.  If not, I will have to minaturise it to make it wearable, and train Benjamin to wear it….

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