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BioRobotics Lab Deep Brain Stimulation Research Featured by Medtronic

Jeffrey Herron Howard Chizeck

The work of EE Ph.D. student Jeffrey Herron and Professor Howard Chizeck, in UW EE's BioRobotics Lab, is featured in a new video and article by Medtronic, which is funding the groundbreaking research to improve treatment for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.

The research specifically entails developing new deep brain stimulation (DBS) hardware that can both sense and stimulate neural signals. By sending electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain, 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. An implanted stimulator in the chest, which is connected to the stimulation electrode in the brain through electrical wires implanted under the skin, must be surgically replaced when the battery is depleted.

To address this challenge, Herron and 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 researchers are 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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