Innovation summary

In many countries, EEG diagnostic equipment is either not available or does not function, and in many cases where there is equipment, there are not any specialists available to interpret the EEG readings.  This lack of diagnostic technology makes it difficult for a physician or healthcare worker to distinguish what type of epilepsy the patient has – and whether or not epilepsy is even the correct diagnosis. 

In Bhutan, psychiatrists handle the care of people with epilepsy, because the country doesn't have any neurologists.  The goal of this study is to bring attention to the lives of people with epilepsy in resource-limited settings, explore and address their feelings of stigma, remove barriers to care, and optimize their quality of life. All participants in the Bhutan Epilepsy Project are offered an opportunity to have a stationary EEG, smartphone EEG, brain MRI, and serum neurocysticercosis testing.

Impact summary

  • Approximately 220 people have been enrolled in the study to date (12/2014)

“Although the number of neurologists in the world is far too low, we believe populations can make a technological leap by using emerging technologies like the smartphone EEG and ultimately reduce the burden of epilepsy.” 


- Farrah J. Mateen, Principal Investigator

This innovation is funded by Grand Challenges Canada.

Innovation details

Smartphone Brain Scanner: A Novel EEG System

The study uses the Smartphone Brain Scanner framework recently developed by Arkadiusz Stopczynski (coinvestigator of the project) and colleagues, to investigate its accuracy in diagnosing epilepsy.

This is a multi-platform, real-time, and portable EEG system consisting of software and hardware, compatible with multiple commercially-available, off-the-shelf mobile devices, such as Android mobile phones and tablets. The device has several advantages for low- and middle-income countries, including (1) portability of the software to be used with multiple mobile technologies including smartphones, tablets, and computers, (2) software compatibility with existing mobile devices, (3) use of consumer-grade EEG headsets that are low cost (~300 dollars), (4) no need for paper tracings or ink, (5) no need for an expert operator, targeting the end-user such that any person can take the EEG recording on a patient with minimal training, (6) storage and electronic transmission of large amounts of data, including EEG tracings lasting for 12 hours or longer, and (7) battery operated mobile devices and EEG headsets, allowing for operation with limited electricity access.1-2

Testing the Smartphone Brain Scanner  

In this study, enrolled participants will receive a smartphone and stationary EEG in Bhutan in order to compare and contrast key features of the EEG including epileptiform activity, background activity, and final diagnosis by a trained EEG reader. The aim is for a positive and negative predictive value of at least 80% each when comparing the smartphone and stationary (gold standard) EEG recording devices.

Key drivers

Supportive Local Team Members 

Support and hard work of the Bhutanese research team has been crucial for study functionality


This technological innovation can be used for encephalopathies and traumatic brain injury. The team anticipates that the technology may have interest worldwide. 



Evaluation methods

Diagnostic accuracy of the smartphone EEG is based on expert EEG reading interpretations and comparison to stationary EEG tests. Evaluation is currently ongoing. 

Cost of implementation

Each device is estimated to cost as low as $250 USD.

Impact details

The following indicators will be assessed at the end of the study:

  • Number of participants who have an accurate diagnosis of seizures/epilepsy on a smartphone EEG compared to stationary EEG.
  • Accurate diagnosis of seizures/epilepsy, including seizure subtype and medication recommendations


  1. Stopczynski A. et al. (2014) The smartphone brain scanner: a portable real-time neuroimaging system. PLoS One; 9.
  2. Stopczynski A. et al. (2014) Smartphones as pocketable labs: visions for mobile brain imaging and neurofeedback. International Journal of Psychophysiology; 91: 54-66.


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