Ancient Egyptians used to zap themselves with small specimens of the Nile's electric eels to relieve pain and, arguably, other neurological symptoms. Nowadays, when drugs are not sufficient to deal with refractory neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases, electric brain stimulation is offered as a treatment option. In fact, we are living in quite exciting times when the burgeoning field of neurotechnology can deliver stimulation to the brain in a variety of ways: electrically, magnetically, mechanically, and optically.

Many movement and mental disorders are believed to involve structures in the deep brain that are connected to the rest of the brain through pathways that convey motor, emotional, motivational, and cognitive functions. Stimulation of these pathways promises therapeutic relief in disease, as well as, enhancement of mental function in health. The majority of interventions rely on delivering constant current or voltage pulses to the brain regardless of the actual ongoing activity inside the head (very much like a cardiac pacemaker). Moreover, the most successful technology to date, called deep brain stimulation, requires two invasive surgeries and long-term precarious clinical support.

Our project, in collaboration with the FDA and ZurichMedTech, has the following goals:
  • Develop a closed-loop brain stimulation system that will communicate with the brain in its own language and that is capable of feedback regulation.
  • Improve the design, efficacy, and performance of current brain stimulation technologies.
  • Create dynamic models of neurological and neuropsychiatric disease processes (including Parkinsons, depression, addiction, OCD, ADHD, Tourettes, and Alzheimers) that involve deep brain structures.
  • Optimize/Enhance MIDA, a computational model of the human head and neck developed by the FDA.
  • Eliminate the necessity of surgery, and develop noninvasive or minimally invasive means of delivering stimulation to the brain.

  • We will thus be creating more sophisticated and individualized technologies that do not require drilling a hole in the skull and that can automatically adapt to changing personal needs. To conduct the research, you will be thoroughly engaged in a very new approach to biological/medical and psychological experimentation; this new approach aims to complement (and one day replace) clinical trials and animal testing through the use of detailed anatomical and physiological computer models.

    Academic, corporate, and government laboratories are currently very much invested in developing all sorts of medical devices that modulate neural activity, a challenging and rewarding research field officially called "neuromodulation". By joining our pilot research program, you will be able to work closely with these institutions, such as the FDA and NIH, and develop contacts for future internships/employment. All it takes is a flair for imaginative creativity to become part of this brave alliance of neuroscience, psychology, medicine, biophysics, biomedical/electrical engineering and computer science.

    First-Year Spring Semester Course:
    FIRE173 - FIRE COURSE 2: Deep Brain Neurotech
    (3 credits, General Education Distributive Studies, Natural Sciences)
    Second-Year Fall Semester Course:
    FIRE273 - FIRE COURSE 3: Deep Brain Neurotech
    (3 credits, General Education Scholarship in Practice)

    More Information

    For more information, please visit the Stream website: http://deepbrain.umd.edu/FIREstream


    Faculty Leader
    Dr. Robert Newcomb

    Research Educator
    Dr. Nevine El-leithy