A new "pacemaker" for the brain developed by engineers from the University of California, Berkeley, may help prevent debilitating seizures and tremors in patients with neurological conditions such as Parkinson's and epilepsy.

Wireless Pacemaker For The Brain

The device known as WAND, which stands for wireless artifact-free neuromodulation device, works by monitoring the brain's electrical activity and delivering electrical stimulation once it detects something is off.

The new neurostimulator can listen to and stimulate electrical current in the brain at the same time so it can be potentially used to deliver fine-tuned treatments for those who suffer from epilepsy and Parkinson's. Seizures and tremors in these patients place them at increased risk for injuries and life-threatening emergencies.

WAND Can Prevent Unwanted Movements Such As Tremors And Seizures

The device is wireless and autonomous, which means that once it learns to recognize the signs of seizure and tremor, it can independently adjust the stimulation on its own to prevent unwanted movements. WAND can also stimulate and record simultaneously so it can adjust these parameters in real time.

Deep brain stimulators currently either stop recording while delivering the electrical stimulation or record at an area of the brain that is different from where the stimulation is applied.

The device can also record electrical activities over 128 channels, or from 128 points in the brain, which is far greater compared with those of other closed-loop systems that can only record electrical activities over eight channels.

"In order to deliver closed-loop stimulation-based therapies, which is a big goal for people treating Parkinson's and epilepsy and a variety of neurological disorders, it is very important to both perform neural recordings and stimulation simultaneously, which currently no single commercial device does," said Samantha Santacruz, former UC Berkeley postdoctoral associate and now an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin.

Santacruz and colleagues described the device in a study published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering on Dec. 31.

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