Program leaders:            Johannes de Boer, Rick Schuurman
Taskforce team:              Huibert Mansvelder, Wytse Wadman
Program members

Rationale and common goals

The neurotechnology program bundles invasive and non-invasive techniques to monitor and influence brain functions in a wide variety of pathological conditions. There is a strong focus on invasive surgical techniques, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), resective epilepsy surgery, vagal nerve stimulation, single-unit neuronal recordings and local field neuronal recordings. In addition the Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) of the human retina and Laser Scanning Microscopy imaging technology of the cortex and deeper structures of the brain is implemented in this research program.

The main goals of the research program are:

  • Improvement of the current clinical applications of DBS in movement disorders, epilepsy, pain treatment and the psychiatric anxiety and mood disorders, but also exploration of neuromodulation for new disease indications such as minimally conscious state, additional psychiatric disorders and dementia;
  • To study fundamental network functions in the brain and pathophysiological mechanisms of disease by collecting intraoperative data on neuronal activity by micro recordings and combining this with anatomical data from Laser Scanning Microscopy and connectivity data from advanced MRI methods;
  • To develop further the techniques and clinical applications of optical coherence tomography and laser scanning microscopy, studying the retinal manifestations of neurodegenerative disorders and develop application of these techniques in the basal ganglia;
  • To contribute to medical-technological innovation by continuing collaboration with medical industry in the development of next-generation DBS electrodes and sensing mechanisms, in order to facilitate steering of stimulation through the brain, drastically reduce effective contact areas refining stimulation to the scale of neuronal cell clusters, and ultimately produce on-demand closed-loop neuromodulation techniques;
  • To study the novel applications of other neuromodulation techniques such as vagal nerve stimulation in suppressing inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, and direct visual cortical stimulation of the blind by implanted electrode grids with input based directly on video camera images of the surroundings.

Assets

The strength of the program lies in the pairing up of existing complimentary expertise in both university hospitals with respect to neurotechnology both from a technological and from a clinical point of view. There are strong ties with clinical departments with large patient cohorts for current and future application of neuromodulation, and strong links with industry to facilitate the envisioned future technological developments.

Making the difference?

The application of current cutting-edge neuromodulation technology to study the central nervous system and change its function in pathological states will lead to

  1. Increased understanding of neurodegenerative disease and.
  2. Opportunities to further develop direct invasive treatments for many neurological disorders.

Deep brain stimulation in particular is entering into a new era with smaller-scale, adaptable manipulation of the network functions of the brain and the neurotechnology research program has the key position between clinical departments, laboratories and medical industry to make this possible.