KINGSTON, R.I. May 19, 2009 A unique electrode developed for non-invasive use by a University of Rhode Island biomedical engineer is showing promising results in helping to interpret brain signals so paralyzed patients may control their environment. It is also being studied as a means of delivering a stimulus to control epileptic seizures.
Unlike the conventional disk-shaped electrode, the bulls-eye electrode is made up of concentric circles that make it look like a small target.
"Imagine an inner tube sitting in a pool of water. The water in the middle of the tube is calm because the ring flattens out the choppy water around it," explained Walter Besio, URI assistant professor of biomedical engineering. "In a similar way, the concentric circles of the electrode eliminate distractions from other sources and allow us to focus in on exactly the signal we're most interested in."
Initially used for a more accurate detection of cardiac signals, Besio began to test its usefulness in detecting brain waves in an effort to help his brother who had become paralyzed in an automobile accident.
"I wanted to see if the electrode could help us figure out what someone was thinking," he said. "When you think about moving your arm, can we discriminate the signals from the brain to interpret the movement you want to make? It would allow paralyzed individuals to be more independent by letting them use their thoughts to perhaps control a robot or computer or a wheelchair."
In addition to detecting signals from the brain, Besio believes the electrode can be used in a therapeutic manner to administer an electrical stimulus to a precise location in the brain to control epileptic seizures or treat other neurological disorders. He has been awarded a $397,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to verify his earlier experiments with rats and develop a computer model of this system.
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University of Rhode Island