Tiny Device Paving The Way For Non-Invasive Epilepsy And Parkinson's Treatment

New Australian research could open the door for non-invasive treatment options for Parkinson's Disease and epilepsy, which traditionally require open brain surgery.

Lead researcher Dr Nick Opie said the development builds on research from 2016 which found implanting devices into blood vessels next to the motor cortex could pick up movement-related brain signals.

The tiny device -- which is no bigger than a match stick -- would be implanted inside a blood vessel through a small incision in a neck vein, which would deliver electrical stimulation to the brain.

Opie, from the University of Melbourne, told 10 daily the new device can listen to, record, stimulate and even talk to the brain.

He said the device essentially created a "two-way digital communication device."

“In one application, the Stentrode could be used as a tool to record the onset of an epileptic seizure, and provide stimulation to prevent it,” he said in a statement.

Opie later told 10 daily that using blood vessels for non-invasive procedures would also mitigate the heavy risks associated with surgery.

Currently deep brain stimulation used to manage Parkinson's requires doctors to cut into the skull to expose the brain for direct stimulation.

"We'll be able to listen to the brain and see when the seizure is about to occur to stop that seizure from happening," Opie said.

"[This] can help a huge number of people and make it a little bit safer."

Opie added that it could also have the potential to make treatment more accessible with the procedure only taking a day.

Researchers have so far tested the four milimetre-in-diameter Stentrode device on sheep and have achieved localised stimulation of brain tissue.

Opie told 10 daily that the device was designed to contract to just one millimetre for delivery, and can expand to eight millimetres.

Clinical trials are expected to begin early next year with stimulation to follow shortly after.

Co-author Dr Sam John said the study was the first time a similar implant was able to stimulate the brain without performing open brain surgery.

“This offers hope of less invasive treatments for the symptoms of conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder,” John said in a statement.

It is hoped that further development may even pave the way to one day allow people suffering from paralysis to control computers, wheelchairs and exoskeletons.

READ MORE: Your Dreams Could Be An Early Clue To Parkinson's Disease

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Featured Image: Sarah Fisher/University of Melbourne