Developing an advanced deep brain stimulation system

Background

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) delivers targeted electrical impulses to the brain through surgically implanted electrodes. Conditions that may be treated successfully using DBS include movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and dystonia (abnormal muscle contractions).

DBS has been an approved treatment to control debilitating tremor in people with advanced Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor for approximately 15 years. The DBS devices presently available are effective, but they have certain limitations and there has been little advancement in the technology in the past decade. For instance, available devices provide a single level of stimulation that is determined and fixed during a patient’s visit to their neurologist.  However, over a single day this fixed stimulation level may sometimes be ineffective in maintaining symptom relief, while at other times produce undesirable side-effects.

Our goal is to:

  • address the limitations of currently available DBS devices by developing an ‘adaptive’ (closed-loop) stimulation strategy so that treatment is personalised and targeted in real time

  • improve other components of current DBS technologies, e.g.,  the deep brain electrode

  • optimise the clinical benefit while minimising side-effects in patients using existing DBS devices

  • design, build, and test novel movement-measurement systems so that the effectiveness of DBS can be accurately assessed

  • in the future, to apply the platform technologies we are creating to other challenging neurological and psychiatric conditions likely to respond to DBS therapy, including certain psychiatric conditions (e.g., obsessive compulsive disorder, severe depression) and other disabling conditions (e.g., chronic pain)

Our research

Research team

Principal ResearchersProf Hugh McDermott, Prof Rob Shepherd, A/Prof James Fallon, Dr Thushara Perera, Dr Wes Thevathasan (Lions International Neurobionics Fellow).

Research EngineerMr Nick Sinclair

PhD candidate – Joy Tan

Funding

The Colonial Foundation, St Vincent’s Research Endowment Fund, Brain Foundation, and the NHMRC (Project Grant and Development Grant).

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