A researcher with the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering has won a grant to make brain surgery for patients with severe cases of Parkinson's disease safer and more effective.
The grant goes to Nuri Ince, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. Awarded by the National Science Foundation, it is valued at $330,000 for three years of work.
Ince, in collaboration with Aviva Abosch, an M.D./Ph.D a neurosurgeon with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, will use the funds to improve deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery.
In this surgery, an electrode measuring just a few millimeters across is inserted into the brain. When attached to a small battery pack, a series of contacts on the electrode can be used to both stimulate and record electrical activity in nearby neurons.
The target of the probe is the subthalamic nucleus (STN), a small, football-shaped section of the brain that helps control movement. In Parkinson's patients, the STN is misfiring, causing symptoms like tremors and labored movement. For most patients, these symptoms can be managed by medication. Some, though, don't respond to medicine. If their symptoms become severe enough, they may opt for DBS surgery.
One of the major challenges in DBS surgery is getting the electrode to just the right spot. The STN sits nearly 3 inches below the scalp and is very tiny just 6 millimeters by 4 millimeters. This makes hitting the STN with the probe extremely difficult, Ince said. And that's the exact problem he aims to solve.
Currently, surgeons insert several microelectrodes into the brain in order to record electrical activity that hopefully will reveal the STN's location. It is very difficult, though, for neurosurgeons to interpret this activity, especially during an actual surgery.
It also neglects the abilities of the probe that targets the STN, Ince said. The contacts on this probe can not only stimulate electrical
|Contact: Jeannie Kever|
University of Houston