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UW EE Researchers Advance Deep Brain Stimulation

By sending electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain, deep brain stimulation (DBS) systems are a common method for treating neurological and movement disorders such as essential tremor. However, since DBS systems are constantly “on,” they suffer from reduced battery life and may even provide unnecessary stimulation.

To address this challenge, EE Ph.D. Student Jeffrey Herron and Professor Howard Chizeck have partnered with the UW Department of Neurological Surgery and UW Department of Philosophy. Together, the team is working with medical device manufacturer Medtronic to use the Activa® PC+S DBS system to improve treatment for people who suffer from essential tremor.

The EE team is specifically working to build a closed-loop system to determine not only when stimulation may be necessary, but to also estimate the appropriate intensity of stimulation. The DBS system’s stimulation parameters would then automatically adjust based on sensed data. By providing therapeutic stimulation only when necessary, and at a proportional intensity, patients may benefit from improved movement and the battery life of the implanted device will be extended.

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