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UC Berkeley researchers develop neurostimulator to treat epilepsy and Parkinson's

A new neurostimulator developed by engineers at UC Berkeley can listen to and stimulate electric current in the brain at the same time, potentially delivering fine-tuned treatments to patients with diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson's, according to a university article.
The device, named the WAND, works like a “pacemaker for the brain,” monitoring the brain's electrical activity and delivering electrical stimulation if it detects something amiss, according to the article.

These devices can be effective at preventing debilitating tremors or seizures in patients with a variety of neurological conditions, according to the article. But the electrical signatures that precede a seizure or tremor can be extremely subtle, and the frequency and strength of electrical stimulation required to prevent them is equally touchy. It can take years of small adjustments by doctors before the devices provide optimal treatment.

WAND, which stands for wireless artifact-free neuromodulation device, is both wireless and autonomous, meaning that once it learns to recognize the signs of tremor or seizure, it can adjust the stimulation parameters on its own to prevent the unwanted movements. And because it is closed-loop — meaning it can stimulate and record simultaneously — it can adjust these parameters in real-time.

The device is described in a study that appeared today (Dec. 31) in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Currently, deep brain stimulators either stop recording while delivering the electrical stimulation, or record at a different part of the brain from where the stimulation is applied — essentially measuring the small ripples at a different point in the pond from the splashing.

“In order to deliver closed-loop stimulation-based therapies, which is a big goal for people treating Parkinson's and epilepsy and a variety of neurological disorders, it is very important to both perform neural recordings and stimulation simultaneously, which currently no single commercial device does,” said former UC Berkeley postdoctoral associate Samantha Santacruz, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin. Santacruz is a BMES member.

Read more HERE.