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Brain activity in Parkinson’s disease recorded with a pocket-sized wireless device

A system has been developed to wirelessly monitor the brain activity of Parkinson’s disease patients, allowing an implanted device to adjust the level of brain stimulation.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices are used to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by implanting a thin wire or electrode that sends electrical signals to the brain.In 2018, an adaptive version of DBS was developed that only adjusts stimulation when needed, based on registered brain activity.

“This is the first device to allow continuous and direct wireless recording of the entire brain signal over many hours,” said Dr. Philip Starr of the University of California.

“That means we are able to perform whole brain recording over a long period of time while people go about their daily lives.

“This is truly the first example of wirelessly recording deep and superficial human brain activity over an extended period of time in the participants’ home environment.”

The patterns of brain activity (neural signatures) normally used to identify problems such as Parkinson’s disease symptoms are traditionally recorded in clinical settings for short periods of time.

The new technology makes it possible to perform the same tests during normal daily activities. Another advantage of long time recording is that clear changes in brain activity (biomarkers) that can predict movement disorders can now be determined for individual patients.

“Because we are able to build a biomarker library for each patient, we can now program each DBS unit based on the patient’s individual needs,” said Dr. Ro’ee Gilron, lead author of the study.

“This includes personalized stimulation programs that adapt to the patient’s needs throughout the day.” Also, because the device required little to no direct contact with clinicians after surgery, it was ideally suited to the social distance protocols imposed as part of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The researchers said that while the technologies used for remote patient monitoring and telecare were originally designed for the convenience of subjects, they have broader applications for other research projects stalled as a result of Covid-19.

Dr. Starr admitted that patients have raised potential privacy concerns regarding the new device, but said, “We are not at the point where we can distinguish specifically normal behavior from recording brain activity.

“It’s an absolutely legitimate concern. We have told patients to feel free to remove their wearable devices and turn off their brain recordings when engaging in activities that they want to keep private. “