The traditional approach to interpreting electroencephalograms (EEGs) requires physicians with formal training to visually assess the waveforms. This approach can be less practical in critical settings where a trained EEG specialist is not readily available to review the EEG and diagnose ongoing subclinical seizures, such as nonconvulsive status epilepticus.We have developed a novel method by which EEG data are converted to sound in real time by letting the underlying electrophysiological signal modulate a voice tone that is in the audible range. Here, we explored whether individuals without any prior EEG training could listen to 15-second sonified EEG and determine whether the EEG represents seizures or nonseizure conditions. We selected 84 EEG samples to represent seizures (n = 7), seizure-like activity (n = 25), or nonperiodic, nonrhythmic activity (normal or focal/generalized slowing, n = 52). EEGs from single channels in the left and right hemispheres were then converted to sound files. After a 4-minute training video, medical students (n = 34) and nurses (n = 30) were asked to designate each audio sample as "seizure" or "nonseizure." We then compared their performance with that of EEG-trained neurologists (n = 12) and medical students (n = 29) who also diagnosed the same EEGs on visual display.Nonexperts listening to single-channel sonified EEGs detected seizures with remarkable sensitivity (students, 98% ± 5%; nurses, 95% ± 14%) compared to experts or nonexperts reviewing the same EEGs on visual display (neurologists, 88% ± 11%; students, 76% ± 19%). If the EEGs contained seizures or seizure-like activity, nonexperts listening to sonified EEGs rated them as seizures with high specificity (students, 85% ± 9%; nurses, 82% ± 12%) compared to experts or nonexperts viewing the EEGs visually (neurologists, 90% ± 7%; students, 65% ± 20%).Our study confirms that individuals without EEG training can detect ongoing seizures or seizure-like rhythmic periodic patterns by listening to sonified EEG. Although sonification of EEG cannot replace the traditional approaches to EEG interpretation, it provides a meaningful triage tool for fast assessment of patients with suspected subclinical seizures.
View details for PubMedID 29558565