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Google and Mayo develop AI algorithm to improve brain stimulation

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A new AI algorithm to improve brain stimulation devices to treat disease is being developed by Google Research and Mayo Clinic. 

For millions of people with epilepsy and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, electrical stimulation of the brain already is widening treatment possibilities. In the future, electrical stimulation may help people with psychiatric illness and direct brain injuries, such as stroke.

However, studying how brain networks interact with each other is complicated. Brain networks can be explored by delivering brief pulses of electrical current in one area of a patient’s brain while measuring voltage responses in other areas. 

In principle, one should be able to infer the structure of brain networks from these data. However, with real-world data, the problem is difficult because the recorded signals are complex, and a limited amount of measurements can be made.

To make the problem manageable, Mayo Clinic researchers, working with Google Research Brain Team, developed a set of paradigms that simplify comparisons between effects of electrical stimulation on the brain. 

Because a mathematical technique to characterise how assemblies of inputs converge in human brain regions did not exist in the scientific literature, the Mayo team collaborated with an international expert in artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to develop a new type of algorithm called “basis profile curve identification.”

In the study, a patient with a brain tumour underwent placement of an electrocorticographic electrode array to locate seizures and map brain function before a tumour was removed. 

Every electrode interaction resulted in hundreds to thousands of time points to be studied using the new algorithm.

“Our findings show that this new type of algorithm may help us understand which brain regions directly interact with one another, which in turn may help guide placement of electrodes for stimulating devices to treat network brain diseases,” says Dr Kai Miller, a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon and first author of the study. 

“As new technology emerges, this type of algorithm may help us to better treat patients with epilepsy, movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease, and psychiatric illnesses like obsessive compulsive disorder and depression.”

“Neurologic data to date is perhaps the most challenging and exciting data to model for AI researchers,” says Klaus-Robert Mueller, Ph.D., study co-author and member of the Google Research Brain Team. 

In the study, the authors provide a downloadable code package so others may explore the technique. 

“Sharing the developed code is a core part of our efforts to help reproducibility of research,” says Dora Hermes, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic biomedical engineer and senior author.

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Science Clinical and Translational Science Award, National Institute of Mental Health Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience, and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Brain injury

Digital information boosts GPs’ support for brain injury survivors

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Brain injury survivors can now access digital information from their GPs to help increase the levels of support and signposting currently available through a new partnership. 

Headway has teamed up with online platform Healthinote to help GPs to give survivors and their carers and families personalised information, which is sent to them digitally after their appointments to read and digest at home. 

The ‘health information prescription’ is presented through visual, immersive and interactive content, and increases both the range and accessibility of virtual resources available to people living with brain injuries. 

Healthinote, which is integrated into the eConsult platform, is in use in over 1,700 GP practices nationwide and can be accessed by over 13,700 GPs. 

The availability of dedicated brain injury resources from Headway, presented via the accessible and engaging channels delivered by Healthinote, is enabling GPs to increase their support to survivors and maximise use of what can be used to support patients remotely. 

“We want to empower people to understand their treatment or condition and supply them with the right health information at the right time,” says Alex Merckx, director of marketing and partnerships at Cognitant, the business which developed and manages Healthinote. 

“Getting accurate information into patients’ hands is very important. Consultations with your GP are very quick and there can be a lot to take in, and while they tell us not to Google things afterwards, of course we all do, and that can lead to misinformation. 

“By using Healthinote, GPs can supply verified, trusted, accurate information to patients and carers, and supplement the work they do face to face. The information is saved to a patient’s electronic record, so if they go on to see a doctor or nurse afterwards, things can be more joined up and they know what resources they have had access to. 

“We are trying to add value to a GP consultation and effectively maximise the customer experience that you would expect from any service, to ensure patients can go away with the information and signposting they need in a format they can understand.”

“The complex, fluctuating and often hidden effects of brain injury can make it difficult for people to get the help and support they need,” says Peter McCabe, chief executive of Headway.

“We recognise the challenges faced by GPs in not only understanding the complexities of brain injury, but also signposting survivors and carers to specialist information and services.

“Too many people slip through the net and are left to cope with impact of brain injury without help of support.

“That’s why this partnership with Healthinote is so exciting.

“It will make it easier for GPs to provide patient or carer-specific information from Headway, whether in the form of our award-winning publications or signposting to local Headway groups or branches, helping us meet our goal of ensuring no one has to deal with brain injury alone.”

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MindMaze to expand neurorehab portfolio after $125m raise

Accelerated commercialisation of its portfolio and further development of its neuro-restorative offering is planned

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Pioneer in digital neurotherapeutics MindMaze has raised $125million to drive forward the continued growth and potential of its neurorehab platform. 

The business said it now plans to accelerate commercialisation of its SaaS-based platform, particularly in North America and Europe, and expand its neuro-restorative portfolio through further system development and clinical trials in conditions including acute stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis (MS).

MindMaze is already a global leader in digital neurotherapeutics, delivering digital assessments and therapeutics in over 20 countries worldwide to thousands of patients living with neurological conditions. 

To date, the business has built collaborations with 90 healthcare providers and has a product portfolio that has received three FDA clearances and four CE marks across eight clinical indications.

Its financing, provided by AlbaCore Capital Group, is one of the top three private capital raises in the European digital health space, and will help to drive forward its plans further still. 

MindMaze is dedicated to improving the lives of patients around the world through the development of novel digital therapeutic products for the treatment of serious neurological conditions,” said Tej Tadi, MindMaze founder and CEO. 

“We have built the leading neuro-focused digital health platform comprehensively addressing full body motor and cognitive challenges associated with key neurological conditions. We believe that the demands of a rapidly ageing world population make our proprietary, proven solutions more critical now than ever before.

“This investment by AlbaCore will allow us to accelerate our proven neuro-rehab platform and advance commercialisation of our evidence-based neuro-restorative solutions in stroke, traumatic brain, ageing and Parkinson’s disease.

“One avenue to pursue will be to partner with pharmaceutical companies to promote brain repair by combining our digital therapeutic neurorestorative approach with emerging drug discovery. 

“We are thrilled to partner with AlbaCore as we build the leading universal platform for brain health and recovery. This financing will enable our dedicated team and partners to advance in our mission to help patients recover, learn and adapt through advanced neuroscience and digital therapeutics.”

MindMaze’s digital neurotherapeutics platform combines personalised, quantified game-based digital therapeutic content supported by tailored smart peripherals that target two distinct areas of care: neurorehabilitation and neurorestoration. 

MindMaze is partnering with leading academic and medical institutions, including Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Mount Sinai Health System and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) in the United States, the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) and the Swiss Federal Institution of Technology (EPFL) in Switzerland, and the Institute for the Brain and Spinal Cord (ICM) in France, to further develop and demonstrate the efficacy of its growing portfolio. 

AlbaCore Capital Group’s managing partner and chief investment officer, David Allen, said: “We are excited to partner with MindMaze and empower their critically important mission to change the face of brain health and recovery through advanced digital tools. 

“We believe that MindMaze is positioned to dramatically improve care for millions of patients, and with this fresh capital will be able to rapidly scale.”

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Tech

First-of-its-kind brain scanner supports children with epilepsy

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The UK’s first wearable brain scanner of its kind to be dedicated to paediatric use is now in use at a specialist clinic for children with epilepsy. 

The optically pumped magnetometer magnetoencephalography (OPM-MEG) system, based on technology developed by researchers at UCL and the University of Nottingham, is integrated into a magnetically shielded room at a new diagnostic suite hosted by the Young Epilepsy charity.

Professor Gareth Barnes, who has led the project at the UCL Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, said: “This is the UK’s first MEG brain scanner that will be dedicated to a paediatric clinical population. 

“It is the younger children with epilepsy who benefit the most from early diagnosis and treatment, but these children are traditionally the most difficult to scan. The new system will not only allow us to scan younger children, but the non-invasive brain images it supplies may also help minimise, or entirely remove, some invasive surgical procedures.”

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a diagnostic tool which measures the changes in magnetic field generated by neuronal activity in the brain. This activity occurs naturally and the whole scan is completely non-invasive. 

An MEG study is recognised as one of the most advanced methods of recording and evaluating brain function and its use in epilepsy is well established. 

However, traditional MEG scanners are optimised for adults and are of limited use in children. Conventional MEG technology also requires a child to stay completely still for long periods, or even be sedated during the scan.

OPM-MEG makes the scan far more accessible for children, especially those with complex health conditions, as it allows them to wear a helmet, move about within the magnetically shielded room and undertake activities whilst the scan happens. The helmet is adaptable to fit a child of any age. 

In addition, the new scanner offers higher sensitivity and spatial accuracy compared to the current ones.

The development offers clinicians a far better chance of capturing the rich data necessary to inform their decisions on the best possible treatment pathway for children with complex neurological conditions.

Rosemarie Pardington, director of integrated care at Young Epilepsy, explained: “At Young Epilepsy, we are always mindful that each and every child is different. The way their epilepsy affects them will be unique, and personal to them. 

“Having a facility like the MEG is going to make an absolutely massive difference to the children and their families.

“The wonderful thing is that clinicians already recognise MEG as a reliable tool on which to base difficult decisions, such as surgery options, due to the richness and the reliability of the data. This takes it to a wearable form and makes it all a much easier experience for children.”

Conventional MEG recordings are made inside a magnetically shielded room, which suppresses environmental magnetic noise. Rooms built for current MEG systems are very large and require multiple layers of expensive metal alloy for the shielding. In addition, conventional MEG systems rely on magnetic field detectors which must be cooled to -269°C in order to operate.

OPM-MEG uses a different type of sensor – optically pumped magnetometers (OPMs), which don’t need cooling to work. In the new system the patient wears a comfortable helmet with sensors attached, meaning that the sensors are closer to the scalp.

The OPM-MEG system also uses a new type of magnetically shielded room – the light Mu-Room developed by the project partnership. 

The newly created room at Young Epilepsy’s health and research centre in Surrey is lighter and cheaper than traditional magnetically shielded rooms. 

This new development, coupled with the new sensors, will eventually offer a feasible, and affordable option for many hospitals.

The research project, led by UCL and the University of Nottingham, was funded by Wellcome, and Young Epilepsy have also worked with Cerca Magnetics Ltd and Magnetic Shields Ltd to bring the scanner to clinic.

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