MASSDEVICE ON CALL — Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital were recipients of a $30 million grant to build brain implants for treating mental illness, targeting combat veterans coming home with brain injuries, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The technology builds on existing treatments for conditions such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy, where implanted electrodes deliver mild electrical shocks to targeted regions of the brain. The MGH project aims to outdo those technologies with a more sophisticated brain monitoring system and the ability to stimulate more than one area of the brain, the Boston Globe reported.
Although designated for military use, the project also plays into a small but growing area of medical devices for the general public that target mental illnesses that are otherwise treated through counseling or drugs.
Technologies such as Medtronic’s (NYSE:MDT) Activa PC+S "brain pacemaker" also aims to record brain activity to deliver customized therapy. Rival STJ has also been developing its implantable Libra deep brain stimulator, saying that early studies suggest the technology helps reduce symptoms in patient with highly treatment-resistant forms of depression.
The MGH team, which includes physicians from California, aims to produce a testable product in 5 years by combining various approaches already used to treat neurological conditions, according to the report.
"We’re entering in neuroscience a perfect storm of opportunity, because the technologies are really advancing very, very rapidly," University of Southern California’s Dr. Arthur Toga, not involved in the project, told the Globe. "Having this kind of information, were it to be obtained, might open up windows for therapies, because it fills in gaps in knowledge."
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