University of California, Berkeley scientists have built a new prototype device, called the Wireless Artifact-Free Neuromodulation Device (WAND). This device can treat brain-related disorders like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease through the method of targeted electrical stimulation.
This device is fixed on the surface of the brain. It continuously monitors the electrical activity inside the brain and jolts it back to equilibrium if something goes wrong. This way, WAND can be used to manage the symptoms of many neurological problems.
This device can be extremely helpful for people who are suffering from a variety of diseases related to the nervous system. It is claimed that they can be quite effective in preventing debilitating tremors or seizures in such patients.
WAND can recognize the signs of tremor or seizure and it can adjust the stimulation parameters on its own to prevent the unwanted movements. This is possible because it is a closed loop, meaning it can stimulate and record simultaneously.
According to the scientists of UC Berkeley, this device has fixed a lot of problems from earlier devices like size limitations and noisy data collection. It also opens a path towards treating some of the broadest neurological conditions in the world.
While other devices can only record electrical activity from up to eight points in the brain, WAND can track activity from 128 different channels. Till now, the device has only been tested on primates and it is yet to be tested on humans.
The electrical engineer and computer scientist Rikky Muller of the University of California, Berkeley said that they want to enable the device to figure out what is the best way to stimulate for a given patient to give the best outcomes. This can be done only by listening and recording the neural signatures.
She also added that in the future they aim to incorporate learning into the 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 the process.
Samantha Santacruz, former UC Berkeley postdoctoral associate said that delivering a closed-loop stimulation-based therapy is a big goal for people treating Parkinson’s and epilepsy and a variety of neurological disorders.
In the future, the team wants to introduce an artificial intelligence system for the implant to get even better at reading and understanding the brain’s signals. The scientists also added that they have to make sure that their device actually works in people.
This long process will involve volunteers who are already hospitalized for epilepsy or Parkinson’s and agree to try out an experimental surgery. This device is sure to help people but it will take time before they prove it.