Non-invasive Electrical Deep Brain Stimulation Technology

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Brain Sciences

Abstract

The ageing of the world population has had a devastating impact on the prevalence of people with brain disorders. The most common brain disorder with age is dementia - a neurodegenerative disease that leads to cognitive impairment that progressively affects activities of daily living erodes independence and impairs quality of life. The leading cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, accounting for 60-70% of all dementia cases1. There are approximately 50 million people with dementia worldwide, and this number is projected to increase to 152 million by 20502. In the UK there are approximately 850,000 people with dementia, and this number is projected to increase to 1.6 million by 2040 (translating to 1 new dementia case every 3 minutes). The global costs of dementia are estimated to be US$1 trillion annually2. The estimated cost of dementia care in the UK is £35 billion, which is projected to rise sharply to £95 billion by 2040. At every given time, about one out of four beds in the NHS hospitals is occupied by a patient with dementia3, thus impeding care for other medical conditions. During the last decades, large-scale efforts to delay or stop the progression of dementia due to Alzheimer's disease via pharmacological interventions have failed to produce viable treatment.
This project will develop a technology that aims to slow or reverse the progression of Alzheimer's disease by boosting the resilience to the pathology in the most vulnerable regions at the early stages of the disease. Our approach is based on non-invasive electrical stimulation of the activity in those vulnerable structures to build up their intrinsic metabolic and energetic functionalities, in a way that is conceptionally similar to how exercise builds up the metabolic and energetic functionalities in the muscles. To non-invasively stimulate the activity at the target brain structures which are often at deep locations, we will use a novel method, called temporal interference (TI) stimulation, that we recently discovered. We have already shown that TI stimulation can be used to change the activity in the hippocampus, a deep brain structure that is critical for memory and cognitive function and strongly affected in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, in an animal model and in healthy humans.
In this project, we will address the most critical engineering challenges to develop our concept to a reliable and precise non-invasive deep brain stimulation technology that can be deployed in large-scale clinical testing. In addition, we will test and iteratively improve the effect of the temporal interference stimulation on the pathology of the hippocampus in animal models of Alzheimer's disease. Finally, we will start developing the pathway to translate the technology to a viable healthcare treatment with affordable and wearable hardware that can also be deployed at the patients' home.
The temporal interference brain stimulation technology with its capability to target arbitrary deep brain structures will provide a platform for developing therapies for multiple brain disorders underpinned by aberrant activity in those structures. The development of such a disruptive technology will place the UK at the frontiers of the neurotechnology industry that is poised for the fastest growth in the medical industry.
1. Livingston, G. et al. The Lancet (2017)
2. Patterson, C. World Alzheimer Report 2018, London, UK (2018).
3. Alzheimer's Society (2009).

Publications

10 25 50