DARPA Focuses on DBS

DBS

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment involving the implantation of a medical device called a brain pacemaker, which sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new, advanced technologies in order to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military. DARPA recently announced that it will commit $70 million over the next five years to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative. More specifically, to further investigate Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery is an FDA-approved treatment that has been proven to significantly reduce the tremor associated with ET. In DBS surgery, a wire (electrode or lead) is placed in the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) nucleus of the thalamus, located deep in the brain. The wire connects under the skin to a pacemaker-like device in the chest, which provides mild electrical currents to control symptoms. In ET, DBS of the VIM nucleus of the thalamus is the most commonly used surgical procedure to control tremor.

Advances in technology have now opened up this option for other complex conditions such as depression, which is precisely why DARPA is so interested in the technology.  According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 10% to 18% of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) troops are likely to have PTSD after they return from service.  That is a significant number of men and women who may require treatment.

So what does this initiative mean for those affected by essential tremor? DARPA would like to see DBS go further than just treat symptoms. “There is no technology that can acquire signals that can tell them precisely what is going on with the brain,” says Justin Sanchez, DARPA program manager, to The New York Times. He explained that DARPA is “trying to change the game on how we approach these problems.”

DARPA hopes to develop DBS to the point that the device will be able to monitor brain signals in real time, treat illness accordingly and measure the success of that treatment. This would be a real games changer for ET patients suffering from severe tremor symptoms. Imagine never having to turn the DBS device on or off, or have it calibrated. It would be programed to know exactly how to manage individual tremor symptoms, then evaluate the results and make adjustments accordingly.

Only time will tell if DARPA is successful with this ambitious project. But even if all their goals are not realized, they are bound to discover an abundance of new information about how the brain works.

Learn more about BRAIN.

August DC Report

 

Washington_DC_-_US_Capitol

Congress adjourned for its summer recess on August 5 and will return on September 9.  As in months past, congressional attention has largely been directed toward repeal, or at least major modification, of the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, it difficult to address other issues right now.

However, the IETF and Tom continue to speak to congressional representatives two or three times a month on research and other issues pertaining to the IETF and essential tremor.  We will continue to follow the programs and plans that result from the call for action on brain research by President Obama.

President Obama launched the BRAIN Initiative in April. The initiative is a research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders. The Initiative promises to accelerate the invention of new technologies that will help researchers produce real-time pictures of complex neural circuits and visualize the rapid-fire interactions of cells that occur at the speed of thought.

Find more information on the BRAIN Initiative on the IETF’s website.

Hopefully, more will be done after the congress resumes in September.

Find past IETF DC reports here.

July DC Report

In July, Tom Bruderle, IETF Legislative Liaison, and Catherine Rice, IETF Executive Director participated in the July 22 NIH BRAIN Initiative Webinar designed to engage the patient advocacy community in the research pursuant to President Obama’s commitment earlier this year. There were about 100 people on the call with a second event anticipated sometime in the fall. Currently, NIH is developing specific scientific goals for the Initiative and has a website up and running at http://www.nih.gov/science/brain/index.htm where you can follow the progress.

Not much has occurred this month in the House and Senate. Tom continues to increase awareness and educate our congressional representatives about essential tremor. If you have a congressional representative or senator in DC that you would like for Tom to visit, please send us an email at info@essentialtremor.org.

 

Learn more about the Brain Initiative

Follow the progress and learn more about Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies – the BRAIN Initiative – at www.nih.gov/science/brain/index.htm. This is an extremely important project because it accelerates our understanding of how the brain works. This in turn will help advance research that develops new interventions for conditions and diseases – like ET! The new tools and technologies that will be developed will lift all research to new levels and provide breakthroughs in the future that enable the development of better treatments and cures to be found.