‘No proof’ dogs can be trained to detect seizures

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When Angel the yellow Labrador starts barking in Sarah Specht’s house, the countdown begins. She must find her 7-year-old son Hunter and then run a small magnet over the vagal nerve stimulator implanted in his chest. Time is of the essence—she has mere minutes to block one of Hunter’s incoming seizures.

But despite such anecdotal accounts, there is no proof that dogs can be trained to detect seizures, let alone predict their onset far enough in advance to tell humans about it.

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“Any good detector has positive value,” says Dr. Gary Mathern, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

Researchers have been stumped by how, precisely, some dogs might be able to detect seizures minutes or even hours in advance. “There’s almost no research on it. It’s actually close to zero research so we have no idea,” says Nathaniel Hall, director of the Canine Olfaction Research and Education Laboratory at Texas Tech University.

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The most common explanation given by canine trainers, though, is that their dogs can smell trace chemical signals released by people who are about to experience a seizure. “The olfactory hypothesis would make sense if biochemical changes were producing an odor that a dog could detect,” Hall says. “As far as I know, that’s no more than a guess.”

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Can Dogs Predict Seizures?

 

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