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Profiling human brains

Non-invasive high-resolution brain interfaces

To understand and treat neurodegenerative disease, we need to be able to monitor changes in the brain before disease onset and during treatment. Mission Lucidity brings together the engineers, scientists and clinicians that can create affordable tools for non-invasive brain monitoring, transforming clinical practice across the globe.

Experts

Biology

Patrik Verstreken, Sha Liu, Peter Jansen, Fabian Kloosterman

Clinical

Rik Vandenberghe, Mathieu vandenbulcke, Wim Van Paesschen, Dries Testelmans, Bertien Buyse

Technology

Nick Van Helleputte, Xavier Rottenberg, Steven Vandeput, Sabine Van Huffel, Peter Peumans

Why

In the years or even decades preceding symptom onset, people on the path to dementia will already start developing brain changes. These changes can be reflected for example in altered sleep and in subclinical epileptic alterations.

Improved monitoring using non-invasive, low-cost devices will help us to detect problems earlier and to evaluate treatments in a cheaper and more refined way.

How

We will develop new wearable and laboratory devices to probe the brain non-invasively with high resolution and sensitivity. Such monitoring could predict, in a cost-effective manner, which individuals will develop cognitive defects. Animal models will be used to reproduce and analyze the fundamental basis of these alterations and identify the relevant cell types that will be mapped back onto the human brain. Finally, the goal is to develop non-invasive deep brain stimulation technologies to induce normal sleep or counteract abnormal electrophysiological activities first in animal models and later in patients.

Seizures and sleep disturbances are common in Alzheimer’s disease, and may cause accelerated cognitive decline. Treating these symptoms therefore could slow down Alzheimer’s disease progression. Smartphone-based wearable devices that measure several biosignals simultaneously, including EEG, would make prolonged monitoring in a home-based setting possible.

Wim Van Paesschen, UZ Leuven & KU Leuven

Partners

imec, KU Leuven, UZ Leuven, VIB, ESAT-STADIUS, NERF

Publications

  • Gu et al. Sensors 2017. Comparison between scalp EEG and behind-the-ear EEG for development of a wearable seizure detection system for patients with focal epilepsy.

    KU Leuven and UZ Leuven scientists and clinicians aim to develop a wearable electroencephalogram (EEG) device that is small and unobtrusive enough to be used in daily life. They recorded epileptic EEG from behind the ear and found that it was a feasible approach to detect seizures in patients with focal epilepsy. Tools based on this technology provide valuable information for disease monitoring and management.

  • Liu et al. Cell 2016. Sleep drive is encoded by neural plastic changes in a dedicated circuit.

    This study defines an integrator circuit for sleep homeostasis and provides a mechanism explaining the generation and persistence of sleep drive.

  • Van Paesschen W. Lancet Neurol. 2018. The future of seizure detection.

    ​​​​​​​Clinical practice relies on seizure diaries of patients to manage epilepsy, but less than half of all patients can accurately document their seizures. The development of algorithms that automatically detect seizure-related EEG changes and increases in heart rate can help to detect seizures in real-time and to generate an alarm signal for family members, caregivers, or health professionals. Smartphone-based wearable devices to measure several biosignals simultaneously, including EEG, will probably be available within the next 5 years.