New wireless ‘pacemaker for brain’ to treat epilepsy

In order to find new and better ways to treat neurological diseases, scientists have created a wireless ‘pacemaker for the brain’ that monitors brain’s activity and stimulates electric currents simultaneously.

New wireless ‘pacemaker for brain’ to treat epilepsy

Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, have created a device called WAND that works like a ‘pacemaker for the brain’, as they call it. The device works similar to a heart pacemaker, monitoring brain’s electrical activity and stimulating electric current in brain simultaneously if it detects something wrong. It thus provides a better treatment for neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and epilepsy.

WAND, abbreviated for Wireless Artifact-free Neuromodulation Device, is wireless and autonomous. It learns to recognize the signs of seizure or tremor and adjusts the stimulation parameters on its own for preventing the unwanted movements in real-time.

“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 researcher Rikky Muller.

The device is made up to two tiny arrays of electrodes that sit inside the skull and link to a circuit board on the side of the head. The pacemaker records the normal electrical current of the brain continually and if it notices a change of rhythm, it immediately fires a stimulating charge to coax the pulse back to normal.

WAND can record electrical activity from 128 points in the brain as compared to eight points in other systems that either stop recording while delivering the electrical stimulation, or even record at a different part of the brain from where the stimulation is applied, as per the research published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

At present, the device has only been tested on a species of monkey, but the team is hoping to test it on humans soon. Also, for the future the team hopes to integrate their learning to build intelligent device ‘that can figure out how to best treat you, and remove the doctor from having to constantly intervene in this process’.