Brain stimulation

Minimally invasive brain stimulation to delay cognitive decline

We are developing a minimally invasive way to electrically stimulate the brain in order to preserve neurons in brain regions that are involved in cognitive functioning. This will delay functional decline in patients with neurodegenerative diseases and significantly improve their quality of life.



Peter Janssen (KU Leuven)


Myles Mc Laughlin (KU Leuven)

Mathieu Vandenbulcke (UZ Leuven)

Tom Theys (UZ Leuven)

Nick Van Helleputte (imec)

Natalia Gunko (VIB-KU Leuven)

Nir Grossman (Imperial College London, UK DRI)


Since the activity of several brain networks is disturbed in Alzheimer’s disease, one option is to counteract the abnormal activity by electrically stimulating the brain. In animal models, brain stimulation was able to reduce two major hallmarks of Alzheimer’s: the abnormal build-up of a toxic protein called amyloid-beta, and the activation of microglia, the immune cells of our brain.

Brain stimulation also holds potential to boost the communication between nerve cells and the generation of new cells, thereby delaying neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.


We are working on a new, minimally invasive tool to stimulate deep memory pathways using electrodes placed under the skin and directly onto the skull. We are developing a new stimulation method in a compact, fully portable device, allowing long-term treatment while the patient is at home.

Brain stimulation alone will not cure neurodegeneration, but it could help to delay the onset of cognitive decline by several years – which would make a crucial difference to millions of people. While our initial focus is on Alzheimer’s disease, our new tool could be applied to other neurodegenerative diseases in the future.


imec | KU Leuven | UZ Leuven | VIB | UK DRI


  • Asamoah et al. 2019 (Nature Communications) tACS motor system effects can be caused by transcutaneous stimulation of peripheral nerves 
  • Khatoun et al. 2019 (Front Neurosci) Investigating the Feasibility of Epicranial Cortical Stimulation Using Concentric-Ring Electrodes: A Novel Minimally Invasive Neuromodulation Method
  • Romero et al. 2019 (Nature Communications) Neural effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation at the single-cell level
    In this study led by Peter Janssen, macaque monkeys received transcranial magnetic brain stimulation while they were performing a motor task, revealing insights in the effects of brain stimulation at the single-cell level.