Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine are creating a noninvasive brain stimulation method to treat neurological disorders such as pain, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.
"Given the growing use of brain stimulation for human brain study, and treatment of neurological disorders, this research could have a huge impact on physicians, and their patients," stated Xiaoming Jin, PhD., an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology.
A brain injury, nerve injury or neurodegeneration is when someone suffers from brain damage. This can cause damage to the brain and lead to loss or damage of nerves or neurons. Hyperexcitability can also occur, which can be a result of neurological disorders like epilepsy or neuropathic pain.
Jin stated that the conventional treatment was to attempt to inhibit hyperexcitability. However, Jin explained that the nerve system or brain damage caused by the loss of brain tissue causes the nervous system's ability to compensate by working harder. Therefore, we must stimulate activity rather than inhibit it.
In a paper published in Neurotherapeutics, the technique uses a new magnetoelectric nanoparticle that can be delivered to specific parts of the brain by using a magnetic field. The magnetic wave can then be generated to stimulate the neural activity in that specific part of your brain. This method is noninvasive and can stimulate deep brain function. It is also more effective than other methods of brain stimulation without genetic manipulation.
Jin stated that this is the only type of nanoparticle which can stimulate the brain effectively without any invasive procedures. We can inject the nanoparticle into a vein and then deliver it to any other part of the body. You can place a magnet on your head to deliver the nanoparticle directly to the brain area.
In collaboration with the University of Miami, the team has been developing the technique for five year and hopes to start studying it in humans within the next few years. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), United States Department of Defense's National Science Foundation, and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institutes (CTSI) have provided funding to Tyler Nguyen, a graduate student in medical neuroscience, for participation in the research. The full paper was published in Neurotherapeutics.