Tiny magnetic coils modulate neural activity, may be safer for deep-brain implants
Magnetic fields generated by microscopic devices implanted into the brain may be able to modulate brain-cell activity and reduce symptoms of several neurological disorders. Micromagnetic stimulation appears to generate the kind of neural activity currently elicited with electrical impulses for deep brain stimulation (DBS) a therapy that can reduce symptoms of Parkinson's disease, other movement disorders, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain and should avoid several common problems associated with DBS, report Massachusetts General Hospital investigators.
"We have shown that fields generated by magnetic coils small enough to be implanted into the central nervous system can be used to modulate the activity of neurons, potentially leading to a new generation of neural prosthetics that are safer and possibly more effective than conventional electrical stimulation devices," says Giorgio Bonmassar, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH, co-lead author of the report in the online journal Nature Communications.
DBS involves implantation of small electrodes called leads into structures deep within the brain. The leads, connected to a battery-operated power source implanted into the abdomen, generate electrical signals that modulate neural activity at sites that vary depending on the condition being treated. DBS has successfully alleviated symptoms in patients not helped by other therapies, but it does have limitations. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can cause metallic DBS implants to heat up and damage adjacent brain tissue, which limits the use of MRI in these patients. In addition, the presence of DBS implants typically elicits an immune system response, leading to scarring around the implant that can block the electrical signal.
Magnetic stimulation has been used to diagnose and treat neurological disorders for two decades, but until now it has required the use of large hand-held coils that generate fields from outside the skull, limiting the brain structures that can be stimulated and the accuracy with which a signal can be delivered. The current study was designed to investigate the potential of much smaller magnetic coils to generate the kind of neural activity produced by DBS, exploring a concept first developed by Bonmassar. The investigators first developed a computational simulation that verified that magnetic coils 1 millimeter long and .5 mm in diameter would generate magnetic and electrical fields that should stimulate neuronal activity.
The research team then tested whether a commercially available coil of that size, coated with a plastic material, would activate neurons in retinal tissue. Positioned right above retinal tissue and either parallel or perpendicular to the tissue surface, the coil generated fields that successfully elicited neuronal signals in retinal cells. How the coil was positioned relative to the retinal surface produced significant differences in the physiologic responses. When the coil was oriented parallel to the retina, the induced field appeared to activate retinal bipolar cells, which transmit signals from the light-sensing photoreceptors to retinal ganglion cells. A coil oriented perpendicular to the retina produced responses indicative of ganglion cell activation.
"These differences suggest that, by modifying the geometry of the coil, we may be able to selectively target populations of neurons and minimize the effects on non-targeted cells," says Shelley Fried, PhD, of the MGH Department of Neurosurgery, corresponding author of Nature Communications report. "By sizing and orienting the coil appropriately to any given population of central nervous system neurons, we should be able to either activate or avoid activation of that population.
"This study provides a proof of concept that small coils can activate neurons, and much work still needs to be done," he adds. "We need to explore how to optimize coil properties and then evaluate the devices in animal models. We also hope to explore the use of these coils in non-DBS applications, including cardiovascular procedures such as heart muscle pacing." Fried is an instructor in Surgery and Bonmassar an assistant professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School.
Journal reference: Nature Communications
Provided by Massachusetts General Hospital
- Next-generation brain stimulation may improve treatment of Parkinson's disease Oct 19, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Consensus reached on use of Parkinson's treatment Oct 13, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- DBS operation for Parkinson's disease performed inside iMRI Sep 19, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Study Shows Electrical Fields Influence Brain Activity Jul 14, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Electrical stimulation of brain boosts birth of new cells, may improve memory Sep 20, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
While Huntington's disease (HD) is currently incurable, the HD research community anticipates that new disease-modifying therapies in development may slow or minimize disease progression. The success of HD research depends ...
Neuroscience 5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Study shows premature birth interrupts vital brain development processes leading to reduced cognitive abilities
Researchers from King's College London have for the first time used a novel form of MRI to identify crucial developmental processes in the brain that are vulnerable to the effects of premature birth. This new study, published ...
Neuroscience 8 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
While the effects of acute stroke have been widely studied, brain damage during the subacute phase of stroke has been a neglected area of research. Now, a new study by the University of South Florida reports that within a ...
Neuroscience 10 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Over the past few decades, neuroscientists have made much progress in mapping the brain by deciphering the functions of individual neurons that perform very specific tasks, such as recognizing the location ...
Neuroscience 13 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (7) | 0 |
For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or ...
Neuroscience May 18, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
New research suggests that a compound abundant in the Mediterranean diet takes away cancer cells' "superpower" to escape death. By altering a very specific step in gene regulation, this compound essentially re-educates cancer ...
7 hours ago | 4.8 / 5 (8) | 1 |
Salamanders' immune systems are key to their remarkable ability to regrow limbs, and could also underpin their ability to regenerate spinal cords, brain tissue and even parts of their hearts, scientists have ...
8 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 2 |
Researchers have pinpointed a catalytic trigger for the onset of Alzheimer's disease – when the fundamental structure of a protein molecule changes to cause a chain reaction that leads to the death of neurons ...
8 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Turns out, that old "practice makes perfect" adage may be overblown. New research led by Michigan State University's Zach Hambrick finds that a copious amount of practice is not enough to explain why people ...
5 hours ago | 3.1 / 5 (7) | 0 |
Older prostate cancer patients with other underlying health conditions should think twice before committing to surgery or radiation therapy for their cancer, according to a multicenter study led by researchers in the UCLA ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A new diagnostic test for a worm infection that can lead to severe enlargement and deformities of the legs and genitals is far more sensitive than the currently used test, according to results of a field ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |