Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Wireless Brain Pacemaker

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Engineers at University of California, Berkeley have developed a neurostimulator that can simultaneously monitor and stimulate the brain's electrical current. The device, dubbed WAND, is like a pacemaker for the brain in that it delivers electrical stimulation as soon as it detects a problem. The brain pacemaker would be extremely helpful for patients suffering from tremors or seizures where neurostimulation has been found to be a successful form of treatment. 

In a proposed device, two of the new chips would be embedded in a chassis located outside the head. Each chip could monitor electrical activity from 64 electrodes located in the brain while simultaneously delivering electrical stimulation to prevent unwanted seizures or tremors.
In a proposed device, two of the new chips would be embedded in a chassis located outside the head. Each chip could monitor electrical activity from 64 electrodes located in the brain while simultaneously delivering electrical stimulation to prevent unwanted seizures or tremors.
Credit: UC Berkeley

 

“The process of finding the right therapy for a patient is extremely costly and can take years. Significant reduction in both cost and duration can potentially lead to greatly improved outcomes and accessibility,” said Rikky Muller, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at Berkeley. “We want to enable the device to figure out what is the best way to stimulate for a given patient to give the best outcomes. And you can only do that by listening and recording the neural signatures.”

 

From the University of California, Berkeley article: "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.

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 recognize and delay specific arm movements in rhesus macaques. The device is described in a study that appeared today (Dec. 31) in Nature Biomedical Engineering."

 

Read more about the wireless brain pacemaker at University of California, Berkeley.