Neurosurgeons and Engineers to eliminate brain disease together

 

A recent article (detailed below) in Engineering.com titled Engineering Implantable Devices for the Brain, caught our eye. It looks at the collaboration of a Paediatric Neurosurgeon and an Electrical Engineer determined to help eliminate brain disease by building brain implants.

 

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Engineering Implantable Devices for the Brain
By Ian Wright - May 17, 2016

Read the full article at the Engineering.com website.

Engineering might be difficult, but it’s not exactly brain surgery.

At least, it wasn’t until a joint research effort between a pediatric neurosurgeon and an electrical engineer brought these disparate fields together at last.

Their ultimate goal is to monitor and stimulate individual human brain cells at room temperature with an microelectromechanical system (MEMS) implanted just above the inner table of the skull for long-term human use. This could make a significant contribution to elimination of brain disease.

Implanting Devices in the Brain: Mad Science or Mad Engineering?
The traditional way to measure and simulate brain activity involved placing electrodes on the brain’s surface. More recently, an approach called deep brain stimulation (DBS) was developed to treat the tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease, as well as depression and a variety of other ailments.

DBS involves implanting a pair of electrodes in a patient’s brain and a generator in the patient’s chest wall. These electrodes then generate a pattern of electrical pulses to simulate portions of the brain. Although the method has proven effective in many cases, the mechanism behind it is not understood, and the risks include bleeding, stroke and infection.

Because the skull is a good insulator, electrical signals from neurons cannot easily pass through it. This means that surgeons need to open the skull in order to place electrodes on or in the brain.

A better alternative would be to avoid penetrating the dura, the covering that protects the brain from infection, and here’s where the engineering comes in...

Thank you to engineering.com and Ian Wright for a great article.