PI: Pulkit Grover
Co-PI(s): Marlene Behrmann, Michael Tarr, Shawn Kelly
University: Carnegie Mellon University

The goal of the proposed work is to design and develop novel minimalist electrodes and electrode waveforms to noninvasively stimulate neurons in the human brain. In particular, our focus is on precise, reliable, and steerable patterns of noninvasive neurostimulation that can be used to suppress “brain tsunamis,” i.e., Cortical Spreading Depolarizations (CSDs). These waves of neural silencing occur during migraine attacks, as well as after brain injuries, and are known to cause secondary brain injuries. These disorders affect millions of Americans every year. Suppressing these waves is therefore a problem of immense societal importance.

The PIs have already developed the first automated algorithm for CSD detection, and presented it at the World Congress on Brain Injury. The proposed work takes it a step further and aims at suppressing these CSDs in an automated and noninvasive fashion. Our focus is on electrode design, while complementary work (from a cost-sharing partnership with UPMC enterprises) obtains algorithms for detection and suppression. Our goal here is to have electrodes that:

  • require minimal setup time (a few seconds, instead of the usual hour or more).
  • have the smallest electrode count while having current waveforms that precisely stimulate only the target regions, and not elsewhere.

To accomplish this, the PIs will advance on and integrate three of their recent innovations:

  1. conductive sponge-based electrodes
  2. “STIMULUS” technique for deep, focused non-invasive neurostimulation without stimulating shallow neurons
  3. precise and dynamic current stimulation-based CSD suppression

The obtained techniques and electrodes will be validated through ex-vivo and human experiments, demonstrating improvements in noninvasive stimulation accuracy over existing modalities. Precise, noninvasive, and long-term-use neurostimulation will find many applications beyond CSD suppression.