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Science AMA Series: Hi, I’m Warren Grill and we used computational evolution to design new patterns of deep brain stimulation to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. AMA!
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Hi reddit! My name is Warren Grill and I’ve spent the past 15 years trying to understand how deep brain stimulation treats symptoms in persons with Parkinson’s disease. This understanding will allow us to make the treatment better. A few years ago, we discovered that the effects of deep brain stimulation depend on the timing of the stimulation pulses. We then used a process based on the principles of evolution to design temporal patterns of stimulation that work better than traditional stimulation at a single high frequency. I’ve been trying to build on that discovery ever since. Our work recently earned a Javits Neuroscience Award from the National Institutes of Health, providing $4 million over the next seven years to fund my laboratory at Duke University. In our experimental work to test the theory that regularization of neural activity was required for deep brain stimulation (DBS) to relieve symptoms, we delivered different random patterns of DBS all at the same average high frequency. The results indeed showed that random patterns were not effective, and of importance to the current work, that the effects of DBS were dependent on the temporal pattern of stimulation. This inspired the idea of designing patterns of stimulation to be more effective and efficient. In one example, we developed a series of temporal patterns that were intended to act as probes for the potential mechanisms of DBS and found that specific patterns were more effective at relieving symptoms than conventional high frequency DBS. These patterns were also more effective at suppressing low frequency oscillatory neural activity. The current work demonstrates the design of patterns that are more efficient than conventional high frequency DBS. One critical aspect of our work is the novel paradigm that we developed to conduct studies during the surgical replacement of the implanted DBS pulse generator due to depleted batteries, as this enabled early translational studies in human subjects. A second key innovation was the design of an electronic system that enabled us to record very small amplitude brain signals in the presence of large artifacts generated by the application of DBS. I’ll be back at 10:30 AM EST to answer your questions. AMA!