Engineering improvements to deep brain stimulation – Science Nation

[♪♪] Miles O’Brien:
Fred Foy is a pretty spry guy. You wouldn’t know it
to meet him, but a few years ago he had an electrode
implanted in his brain. Fred Foy:
Having the implant wasn’t the most pleasant thing
in my life, but it worked,
and that’s what was important. Miles O’Brien:
It worked to steady his shaky hands. Fred has what’s called
“essential tremor.” About seven million
other Americans have it too. To manage it, he receives
what’s called Deep Brain Stimulation,
or DBS. Howard Chizeck:
This project is aimed at improving
the lives of individuals with essential tremor,
Parkinson’s disease and other conditions
that could be treated with deep brain stimulation. Miles O’Brien:
the National Science Foundation, a team at the Center
for Neurotechnology at the University
of Washington is working to bring about
what you might call DBS 2.0. Alainna Brow:
So, this is our deep brain stimulator.
This is one of our demos, and this is the end
that goes into the brain. Miles O’Brien:
Fred is part of a research study to test how sensors
and new control algorithms could give DBS patients
more autonomy. Alainna Brown:
This is our pulse generator, and this is what’s implanted
in the chest wall, and then from here the wires
will run up through the neck and under the scalp,
back into the brain. Miles O’Brien:
DBS works by delivering tiny pulses of electrical
stimulation to the brain. Margaret Thompson:
The same way that we can use pacemakers
to regulate heart activity, we can use deep
brain stimulators to modulate some aspect
of brain activity depending on what part of
the brain we put it in. Miles O’Brien:
When Fred comes in for a session, they temporarily reprogram
his pulse generator to see how he responds to some
of the new control algorithms. He makes spirals,
draws lines, Fred Foy:
Ahhhhhhh Miles O’Brien:
and speaks into a voice recorder. Miles O’Brien:
Like many DBS patients, he has limited control
over his device. Battery life is an issue.
It’s implanted in his chest and changing it
out means surgery. Howard Chizeck:
Having to replace the battery has a medical expense.
It has a medical risk, and if you could extend
the battery lifetime, that’s a laudable goal. Miles O’Brien:
But, another major goal is to reduce side effects
related to DBS, like speech problems. Fred Foy:
Dog, cat, horse Miles O’Brien:
In this test, Fred has to name all the animals
he can think of in 30 seconds. Fred Foy:
Cow Howard Chizeck:
So, you know you’re going to drink a glass of water,
you don’t care about talking. So, stimulation to stop
the tremor is important to get
the glass to your mouth, but if you’re standing up
to give a speech, you do care about talking and probably some tremor
in your hand is acceptable. That’s the kind of adjustment that we’d like the device
to be able to make. Margaret Thompson:
We’ll set this to two volts Miles O’Brien:
Ultimately, the team would like the electrodes in the brain
to function as sensors, detecting a tremor
using machine learning, and then delivering just
the right amount of stimulation needed to control it. Margaret Thompson:
If we can determine more intelligently, selectively when they need
the stimulation applied, we can reduce exposure
to side effects. Miles O’Brien:
Tim Brown focuses on the human factors
related to this project. He says from
the patient’s perspective, implants like these
can be a sensitive topic, especially when artificial
intelligence is in play. Tim Brown:
Thanks Fred If there are any issues about how a patient
will control a system or how a patient will respond
to certain kinds of experimental protocols,
they have… we talk it out, and we try
to figure out solutions. Miles O’Brien:
Fred says DBS has really helped in controlling his tremors. He’s here to help make it
even better for others. Fred Foy:
I just hope that they learn enough
they could improve the science that will give other people
or encourage other people to have faith
in what they’re doing. Miles O’Brien:
Engineering better, smarter medical devices
to help people with tremors
live better lives – For Science Nation,
I’m Miles O’Brien.

Glenn Chapman


  1. My mom has Parkinson’s. Idk if I would let her do this, although she really hates the tremors.

  2. Please create a collider destroying the elementary particle
    Such as quarks, electrons and gluons
    We want this new collider to be stronger than the CERN collider
    But the new collider must be hundreds of times smaller than that of the CERN
    The question is can you build a small collider at the same time stronger than the CERN collider
    Please send the question to physicists and engineers
    A smaller collider must be smaller than a CERN collider
    Hundreds of times smaller than CERN Collider but dozens of times stronger than CERN Collider!
    This invention in order to create a new collider in the fastest time
    We hope these engineers and physicists will find new plans
    In order to build a new collider at the same time, dozens of times stronger than the CERN collider
    We want to discover the components of quarks and gallons by destroying quarks and gallons
    This is in order to detect quantum gravitational particles
    So we can explain the initial events before the Big Bang that created this universe
    About 13 billion and 800 million years ago
    Please send these suggestions to experts and engineers

  3. Amazing! Can Wireless Inductive Charging work through the chest wall? I know charging a mobile phone is different than a deep brain stimulator but it would sure beat surgery? Why does the stimulator need to be implanted? Can it just work with an external device like a smartwatch, phone app, or an implant closer to the skin's surface? Certainly if the implant can be connected to an external device it could either have enough power for the AI computations or offload the compute to a cloud service like Amazon Web Service or Microsoft Azure. There would absolutely be tradeoffs but again a surgery to recharge the battery seems excessively risky especially in older patients.

  4. The main motivation for this is to map out the brain so that the government can control people in the future.

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