On the 29th of October is World Day of Accident. Frequent consequences of a stroke are paralysis and perceptual disturbances, which can severely restrict the everyday life of the affected person. In order to reactivate damaged areas of the brain long-term, a team is currently being developed by Professor Dr. Ulf Ziemann at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research and the University Hospital of Tübingen, Germany, a new stimulation device. The NEUROSYNC device accurately evaluates brain signals in real-time and on the millisecond and stimulates damaged areas depending on it. Thus it takes into account that the right time and the right place are decisive for a long-lasting effect of brain stimulation.The physicians have already patented the prototype of the apparatus. Now they want to develop it for the wide application in the therapy further. For the two-year project the research group has sued nearly half a million euros per year from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy.
“Behind the NEUROSYNC device is the realization that the effectiveness of the so-called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) depends on the exact time of the stimuli,” explains Ziemann. In TMS, small brain areas are stimulated by magnetic impulses. Damaged areas can thereby regenerate. “In previous studies, we found that the effects are stronger and persist longer when the stimuli are synchronized with fluctuations in brain activity.” In therapy, TMS is currently used mainly in stroke, tinnitus, and depression. However, as a regular treatment method, it has not yet been able to establish itself. The physicians hope that this will change in the long term with their methodical development.
For time synchronization, the device combines a TMS coil with an EEG device, which measures the brain currents. A program evaluates the data in real time and determines the optimum time to trigger the next magnetic stimulus. “In our prototype, we are currently using separate EEG devices with the traditional caps,” says Dr. Christoph Zrenner, who is the leader in the development of the device. “In the future NEUROSYNC device, the EEG electrodes should then be integrated in the coil. We are also planning a user-friendly graphical interface for the analysis and control program. “
The scientists use the prototype of the device to examine and optimize the effects of the stimulation protocol in healthy subjects in the laboratory. They are currently preparing the clinical use. “We are assuming that we can begin the first therapies studies next year,” says Ziemann. In the long term, the NEUROSYNC device should be suitable for therapeutic use in medical practices and hospitals. “Our goal is to facilitate the application in everyday life in order to ultimately make the state-dependent – and more effective – TMS stimulation accessible to a wide group of patients.”