Precision Neuromodulation: Engineering Targeted Electrical Treatments for Neurological and Non-Neurological Disorders
Electrical neuromodulation is a powerful alternative to pharmaceuticals that treats disease by electrically targeting select parts of the central or peripheral nervous systems. This neurotechnology has transformed clinical management of diseases in which pharmaceuticals alone are less effective, such as chronic pain and late-stage Parkinson’s disease. Recent electrical neuromodulation work shows promise for enhancing neurorehabilitation options and for improving management of disease in at-risk populations such as hypertension or diabetes. However, despite this transformative potential, average efficacy rates of established neuromodulation therapies remain at approximately 60% due to imprecise energy delivery, therapy-limiting side effects, and a poor understanding of therapeutic mechanisms. Precision tools—computational modeling, novel neuromodulation strategies, and data-driven approaches—are poised to increase the therapeutic response rates substantially by addressing each of these challenges through personalization of therapies and improved control over energy delivery. In this talk, I demonstrate how the combined use of computational and in vivo experimental methods in neuromodulation can advance our ability to develop these precision tools in the central and peripheral nervous system. In the central nervous system, I show how model-based optimization algorithm frameworks can improve the efficacy and efficiency of deep brain stimulation therapy for treating brain disorders. In the peripheral nervous system, I show how the discovery of novel types of kilohertz-frequency signals can inactivate neural activity efficiently and with minimal undesired activation. The presented work illustrates the power of combining computational models and in vivo experimental approaches. This dual strategy has broad applicability to innovate precision neuromodulation technologies for treatment of neurological and non-neurological disorders.
Edgar Peña is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Neural Prostheses Research Lab at Duke University, where he develops enabling tools that advance the stimulation, block, and recording of peripheral and autonomic nerves. Previously, Dr. Peña worked in the Neuromodulation Research and Technology Lab at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he used computational models of deep brain stimulation to evaluate engineering optimization approaches for enhancing the spatial precision of neural stimulation. Dr. Peña was a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2015.