Brainiacs on the brain

UW team publishes first power-efficient brain stimulators preventing tremors

Six researchers, engineers, and medical professionals have proved there’s a way to save battery power for patients using Deep Brain Stimulators (DBS), which use a pulse generator in someone’s chest that sends electricity up through a cord to specific parts of the brain.

DBS are primarily used by patients with essential tremor (ET), or involuntary shaking. This shaking happens only during deliberate tasks, however, like writing, eating, and drinking. But current DBS implants are always on, draining battery even while people are sleeping. This means more surgeries for replacement batteries, and researchers wanted to change this.

Howard Chizeck, one of the co-authors of the research, had been working on neural engineering to restore motor functions since 1981. His work expands more than just ETs, including things like Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and paralysis.

“In this project, my motivation was to see what can be done with existing, off-the-shelf technology,” Chizeck said. “A key issue is that if this works, it can get to clinical use quickly.”

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