Engineering improvements to deep brain stimulation

CNT researchers at the University of Washington, in partnership with the CNT’s industry affiliate, Medtronic, are developing brain-controlled deep brain stimulators, which can be used to better treat Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a video featuring Center for Neurotechnology (CNT) researchers in Howard Chizeck’s lab at the University of Washington (UW) and their study participant, Fred Foy. The video was produced for NSF Science Nation, a series distributed via streaming services such as YouTube and Roku, as well as media outlets across the country.

In 2017, Chizeck’s research team, in partnership with the CNT’s industry affiliate, Medtronic, achieved the first in-human use of a brain-controlled deep brain stimulator for treating Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. Essential tremor is the world’s most common movement disorder, affecting 7 million people per year in the U.S. alone. For Foy, that meant he could better control tremors in his hands, improving his ability to write and better execute everyday tasks that required fine motor dexterity.

“Having the implant wasn’t the most pleasant thing in my life, but it worked, and that’s what was important.” Foy said in the video.

Chizeck said that the project was aimed at improving the lives of individuals like Foy who have essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions that could be treated with deep brain stimulation. By engineering a closed-loop system, where the user essentially “thinks” their device off and on, the user activates the stimulator only when needed, and thus battery life can be extended.

 “Having to replace the battery is a medical expense and has a medical risk, so if you can extend the battery lifetime, that’s a laudable goal,” Chizeck said in the video.

Foy said that his implant helped greatly to improve his tremors. He expressed the desire to help others through his participation in this research study.

“I just hope they [the CNT researchers] learn enough, so they can [further] improve the science,” Foy said in the video. “That will give other people, or encourage other people, to have faith in what they’re doing.”

Read more about this CNT research project on the UW News website.

Story Publication: 

NSF Science Nation

Date of Publication: 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019