Now, a pacemaker for brain, to help patients with epilepsy and Parkinson’s

Based on inputs by Shahid Kazi

The scientists, at University of California, Berkeley. have developed a wireless device that can stimulate the brain with electric current. This will potentially help delivering fine-tuned treatments to patients with diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson’s.

The neurostimulator, 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, said researchers at the University of California, Berkeley in the US.

These devices can be extremely effective at preventing debilitating tremors or seizures in patients with a variety of neurological conditions, according to the study published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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

WAND can record electrical activity over 128 channels, or from 128 points in the brain, compared to eight channels in other closed-loop systems. To demonstrate the device, the team used WAND to recognise and delay specific arm movements in rhesus macaques.

To demonstrate the device, the team used WAND to recognise and delay specific arm movements in monkeys.

In experiments, the monkeys were taught to use a joystick to move a cursor to a specific location.

After a training period, the WAND device was capable of detecting the neural signatures that arose as the animals prepared to perform the motion, and then deliver electrical stimulation that delayed the motion.

Rikky Muller Assistant Professor at University of California, Berkeley said “In the future we aim to incorporate learning into our closed-loop platform to build intelligent devices that can figure out how to best treat you, and remove the doctor from having to constantly intervene in this process,”

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