CWRU engineers to study mechanisms of deep brain stimulation

October 26, 2000

CLEVELAND -- The Department of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University has received more than $1.6 million over five years from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the National Institutes of Health to support efforts that could lead to new implant-technology for treating nervous system disorders.

CWRU researchers will use the grant to develop a new technique to selectively stimulate thalamic neurons in the brain by collaborating with the Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Center -- a consortium which includes the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, CWRU, and MetroHealth Medical Center. Through this consortium, investigators created the world's first implanted hand grasp neuroprosthesis to provide hand opening and closing for individuals with quadriplegia due to spinal cord injury.

"The new grant will permit the research team to study deep-brain stimulation -- a technique used to treat movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, and tremor due to multiple sclerosis," said Warren M. Grill, the study's principal investigator. Grill is the Elmer L. Lindseth Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at CWRU, and a research scientist at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is effective in treating a number of neurological disorders, but scientists say the mechanisms of action are unclear. "We plan to determine exactly which elements of the brain are being activated during DBS and then we will develop new technologies to activate them selectively, turning them on and off at will to achieve the desired clinical result," Grill said. Researchers will develop computer-based neural models of the human thalamus to describe the stimulation phenomena and validate them in the clinic using novel stimulation techniques.

"We attribute some of the complications of DBS to unwanted stimulation," said co-investigator Erwin Montgomery, from the Department of Neurology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and co-director of the Cleveland-based Center for Functional and Restorative Neuroscience.

"If we can improve our ability to target and direct the stimulation, we can expect better therapeutic efficacy and an expanded population of patients who may benefit from the technique," he added.

Case Western Reserve University

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