SfN17: Advances in brain stimulation in treatment and research

Written by Lauren Pulling, Editor

Research presented today at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting (Washington DC, USA, 11–15 November 2017) has detailed advances in brain stimulation technologies, revealing safer, more targeted means of studying brain function and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. 
One such piece of research came from Nicole Swann (University of California, San Francisco, LA, USA) and colleagues, who presented evidence that a novel implantable device can both provide deep brain stimulation (DBS) and record activity at the brain surface, providing feedback and causing the device to moderate stimulation level according to the patient’s levels of dyskinesia. The device was tested on two patients, both inside and outside the lab, with neither reporting any adverse symptoms.

“Our study showed that totally implanted, adaptive deep brain stimulation is feasible and can be used at home in patients,” said Swann. “Adaptive stimulation represents one of the first major advances in DBS technology since this technique was first introduced for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease 25 years ago.”

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Other studies presented included data from Walker et al. (Northwestern University, IL, USA)  demonstrating that transcranial magnetic stimulation improves location memory in older adults, providing a possible path for limiting age-related memory loss. In the same conference session, Yoo et al. (Harvard Medical School, MA, USA) described a new headset that can deliver focused ultrasound to activate or inhibit activity in targeted brain regions in research in sheep: this is a potential first step toward stimulating specific brain regions in awake, moving animals.

In addition, Young (Stanford University, CA, USA) and colleagues presented a brain stimulation system that simultaneously monitors and activates neurons in mice, allowing more targeted control of brain activity based on real-time neural changes, and another group led by Jan Kubanek (Stanford University) showed that transcranial focused ultrasound affects deep brain regions and influences primate behavior, indicating its potential use in treating neurological disorders.

“The advances presented today help expand what’s possible with brain stimulation,” said Helen Mayberg (Emory University School of Medicine, GA, USA), who pioneered the use of DBS for treatment-resistant depression. “The range of techniques and the neuroscience advances presented not only provide potential new treatment strategies for our most severe neurological and psychiatric disorders, they also open the door to new ways of viewing and probing the brain to improve our understanding of feelings, thoughts and actions.”

Source: Society for Neuroscience