Delft, Netherlands, 24-4-2015 — /EuropaWire/ — Brain stimulation is now being used successfully to combat diseases such as Parkinson’s, chronic depression, pain and tinnitus. By making neurostimulators smaller and more energy efficient, they can be used more effectively and for a wider range of brain and nervous disorders. Marijn van Dongen made a prototype of a chip that enables this kind of neurostimulation to be used. On Friday 24 April, he will be awarded his PhD at TU Delft for his work on the subject.
Brain stimulation is successfully used today to combat diseases such as Parkinson’s, chronic depression, pain and tinnitus, and there is evidence that brain stimulation may also be successful in the treatment of many more brain disorders, such as epilepsy, addictions, migraine and dementia. Many existing neurostimulators, however, have a limited energy efficiency, making a large battery necessary. This in turn increases the size of the whole neurostimulator, making it impossible to locate the implant where it is actually needed. Subcutaneous wires often connect the neurostimulator in the chest with the electrodes in the brain.
This is why a new method of neurostimulation has been researched at TU Delft: high-frequency (HF) neurostimulation. The effectiveness of this HF stimulation has been demonstrated in simulations and with in-vitro measurements (in collaboration with the department of Neuroscience at the Erasmus Medical Centre). Not only does HF stimulation have the same effect on tissue as classical stimulation, it can also be more energy efficient. This means that the battery can be smaller and fewer space-consuming components are needed.
‘In my doctoral research, we focused on new stimulation patterns that can be generated efficiently,’ says Marijn van Dongen. ‘Instead of a constant current, we stimulate the brain with a series of high-frequency pulses of current. These kinds of pulses can be generated in an energy efficient way thanks to the principle of a switched-mode power supply. We have designed an energy-efficient neurostimulator chip that is up to 200% more energy efficient than its conventional counterparts. This means that future neurostimulators can be made smaller and as a result can be used for a greater range of brain and nervous disorders. Moreover, these pulses can activate different targets simultaneously, increasing the efficiency of the neurostimulation.’
A prototype chip has been developed which can be used with this form of neurostimulation. The method has also been successfully verified in collaboration with neuroscientists at Erasmus University Medical Centre, the University of Texas at Dallas (US) and the University of Otago (New Zealand).
Prior to the PhD conferral ceremony of Marijn van Dongen, a colloquium will be held on neurostimulation by Prof. Dirk De Ridder: The future of brain, spine and nerve stimulation. Prof. Dirk De Ridder holds the Neurological Foundation Chair in Neurosurgery at the Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand (Friday 24 April, 10:00-11:15 in the Snijderszaal: EEMCS-LB01.010, TU Delft).More information
For more information, please contact Marijn van Dongen, department of Microelectronics at the faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science: M.N.vanDongen@tudelft.nl, +31 (0)6 – 435 70479; or Claire Hallewas, TU Delft Media Relations Officer, C.R.Hallewas@tudelft.nl, +31 (0)15 27 84259. For access to the thesis please visit TU Delft repository.