Adjustable Brain Implant Could Identify Seizure Origins, Shut it Down
November 14, 2011 3:21 PM
Thin, flexible electrode array
The electrode array is made of a pliable material that's thickness is that of about a quarter of a human hair
A team of researchers has created a flexible
that could eventually be used to identify where a seizure starts in the brain and shut it down.
Brian Litt, M.D., study leader and associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, along with Jonathan Viventi, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, and a team of researchers, have developed a type of electrode array that adjusts to the brain's surface and could allow for a better understanding of epileptic seizures.
The brain holds billions of neurons that transmit electrical pulses, and when a seizure occurs, these pulses occur in an abnormal fashion. The pulses become rapid "bursts" that lead to loss of consciousess and convulsions. While there are over 20 drugs available to
, they don't always control seizures properly.
Surgery is another option for individuals with epilepsy, where electrode arrays are used to "map" seizures and allow for the removal of the area of the brain where seizures begin. However, the electrode arrays currently used are not flexible and do not adjust to the folds of the brain, meaning they provide minimal coverage.
That's where Litt and Viventi's new device comes in. Their
is made of a pliable material thats thickness is that of about a quarter of a human hair. It has 360 electrodes and built-in silicon transistors for minimal wiring. The electrode array conform's to the brain's many folds, allowing for maximum coverage.
The brain implant was tested on cats because they have larger brains that are more similar to the human brain than mice. The research team found that the device was able to record brain responses during various situations, such as the cat viewing certain objects or sleep rhythms while undergoing anesthesia. The researchers gave the cats a drug that induced seizures, and the brain implant allowed them to see what kind of response occurred.
"We were able to watch as spiral waves began and became self-sustaining," said Litt. "We should be able to model the spirals and determine what kind of waveform can stop them. Or we can watch the spirals terminate spontaneously and try to reproduce what we see by stimulating the brain electrically."
The researchers hope to one day roll the array into a tube and send it into the brain through a small hole instead of opening the skull.
"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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