A nanoscale memristor developed by Southampton University researchers could pave the way for novel neuroprosthetics

Parkinson’s disease brain activity recorded with pocket-sized wireless device

A system for wirelessly monitoring the brain activity of patients with Parkinson’s disease has been developed, allowing an implanted device to adjust its levels of brain stimulation.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices are used to manage Parkinson’s disease symptoms by implanting a thin wire, or electrode, that sends electrical signals into the brain.

In 2018, an adaptive version of DBS was developed that adapts its stimulation only when needed, based on recorded brain activity.

“This is the first device that allows for continuous and direct wireless recording of the entire brain signal over many hours,” said Dr Philip Starr at the University of California. “That means we are able to perform whole brain recording over a long period of time while people are going about their daily lives.

“This is really the first example of wirelessly recording deep and surface human brain activity for an extended period of time in the participants’ home environment.”

The brain activity patterns (neural signatures) normally used to identify problems such as Parkinson’s disease symptoms have traditionally been recorded in clinical settings over short periods of time. The new technology makes it possible to carry out the same tests during ordinary daily activities.

Another advantage to recording over long periods of time is that distinct changes in brain activity (biomarkers) that could predict movement disorders can now be identified for individual patients.

“Because we are able to build a biomarker library for each patient, we can now program each DBS unit according to a patient’s individual needs,” said Dr Ro'ee Gilron, first author of the study. “This includes personalised stimulation programs that adapt as the patient’s needs change throughout the day.”

As the device also required little to no direct contact with clinicians following surgery, it was ideally suited for the social distancing protocols imposed as part of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The researchers said that while the technologies used for remote patient monitoring and telehealth were originally designed for the convenience of study subjects, they have broader applications to other research projects that have stalled due to Covid-19.

Dr Starr admitted that patients have voiced possible concerns about privacy with regards to the new device, but he said: “We are not at the point where we can distinguish specific normal behaviours from brain activity recording.

“It is an absolutely legitimate concern. We have told patients to feel free to remove their wearable devices and to turn off their brain recordings whenever they engage in activities they would like to keep private.”

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