Health & medicine Science & tech

The promise of neurotechnology

Neurotechnology-based therapies, including brain-machine interfaces, robotics, and brain stimulation, have been touted as potential game-changers for people with neurological disorders. Abi Millar takes a look at the state of neurotechnology, and how innovative treatments are already benefitting patients.

Neurotechnology-based therapies – once the preserve of science fiction – are fast becoming a reality. Including the likes of neurostimulation and brain-machine interfaces, the field blurs the lines between technology and biology. It could prove a game-changer for many patients, as well as holding profound implications for society at large.

In July, it was reported that a two-year-old Scottish girl had become the youngest person ever to receive deep brain stimulation (DBS). The child, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder, was experiencing out-of-control muscle spasms (dystonia) and would have died without surgery.

Surgeons at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London implanted two electrodes (neurostimulators) into the globus pallidus internus, a region of the brain responsible for preventing unwanted movement. The contacts on the electrodes send electric pulses down the wires and towards a pacemaker-device inserted under the skin of the abdomen. Over time, this helps reduce the uncontrollable movements and holds the promise that the child will lead a normal life.

“In operating on Viktoria our neurosurgeons have broken the sound barrier in neurosurgery, by offering DBS at such a young age,” said Dr Jean-Pierre Lin, the child’s consultant paediatric neurologist. “Viktoria’s case is exciting and potentially very significant because it may offer an opportunity for children with early movement disorders to benefit from DBS and have a better future.”

Read the rest of this article in the October 2019 edition of Medical Technology

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