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I have Parkinson's diseases and thought it would be nice to have a place where the contents of updated news is found in one place. That is why I began this blog.

I copy news articles pertaining to research, news and information for Parkinson's disease, Dementia, the Brain, Depression and Parkinson's with Dystonia. I also post about Fundraising for Parkinson's disease and events. I try to be up-to-date as possible.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Easton’s globetrotter, birdwatcher is always looking up

December 9, 2018

“I feel lucky every day,” said Ryan. “Traveling the world like this was beyond my wildest dreams.”

Kevin Ryan

EASTON — It doesn’t quite matter where Kevin Ryan is.

He could be in Australia or Antarctica. He might be stepping off an airplane in Hawaii. He might just be peeking out the window of his Bay Road home.
Ryan, Easton’s kind-eyed globetrotter and birdwatcher, is always looking up.

He’s been all to of those places — all seven continents, in fact, after his 2016 trip to Antarctica. And the 72-year-old man battling Parkinson’s disease says he has found life, kindness and a reinvigorating spirit in opening himself to new experiences.

“I’m always keeping my eyes to the sky,” he said last Wednesday at his usual roost, the Beanery on Washington. “And I’ve always found something.”
It’s a unique perspective that most expert birders like Ryan share: finding beauty in every corner of life.

Yes, for example, seeing the snowy albatross of Antarctica rising above the icebergs is a rare treat. But how about nearby, where you can see the fastest bird in the world?

“You know where that one is?” Ryan asked. “Right in Brockton.”
Eagle-eyed Brocktonians will know he’s referring to the peregrine falcon, which nests most years in the Verizon cell tower downtown. The small, strong bird with a speckled white breast can reach dive speeds of 200 miles per hour.
“And it feeds on those fat Brockton pigeons,” Ryan said.

Altogether, he’s seen about 3,000 different species of birds in his travels, which have taken him to 25 different countries. He writes most days in his birding journals, and puts together big, bound scrapbooks for his major expeditions, like Africa (2011), Australia (2012) and his unforgettable trip to Antarctica two years ago.

The cover to his Antarctica photo album features an image of Ryan holding up seven fingers — Antarctica was the seventh and final continent he stepped foot on.
“I feel lucky every day,” said Ryan, who served in Vietnam before working for 25 years as an Amtrak conductor. “Traveling the world like this was beyond my wildest dreams.”.

After growing up in the Mission Hill housing projects in Roxbury, Ryan joined the Marines at 17.

He spent 13 grueling months in Vietnam (“the only country I don’t remember seeing a bird, he says) before returning to Massachusetts and beginning his career with Amtrak.

His passion with birds began in those years, but truly spread its wings when he retired about 10 years ago.

“I decided first that I wanted to see how many birds I could see in Massachusetts in one year,” he said.

He finished with 321.

The beauty in birds, Ryan says, is in their amazing capabilities. Did you know that a Laysan albatross named Wisdom laid an egg at 67 years old last year? Or that some shorebirds, like whimbrels and godwits, fly nonstop from Cape Cod to South America?

Have you ever seen the fortitude of a harlequin duck calmly float while an ocean storm rages around him? Or the amazing ability of a tawny frogmouth to camouflage itself in the trees?

“You learn something new every day,” Ryan said. “With birds, you never stop learning.”And they never stop surprising you. The best evidence of that came a couple years ago, when Ryan spotted a golden eagle near his home on Bay Road.

Not a bald eagle, which is relatively common in New England — a golden eagle, which is a very rare sighting in the Bay State. They can only be seen for a couple weeks in late October or early November when they migrate south from Quebec.

Not even Parkinson’s disease, which he was diagnosed with two years ago, can slow him down. Ryan is set for a trip to Ecuador this winter, where he plans to add a few hummingbirds to his big list. He’s also a member of the South Shore Bird Club, which goes on trips and hikes every month to seek out the best of the South Shore’s birds.

Along with his wife, Donna, and two children, the birding, traveling and journaling has kept him young, he said. He battled for a long time with PTSD from his time in Vietnam, but found peace in his travels.

“The world is such a beautiful place,” he said. “And the people everywhere are so kind. It lifts your spirit.”

Brain Tissue Chip Attracts Zuckerberg Interest

10 December 2018      Nitin Dahad, EE Times

Belgian research team gets $1M in funding from CZI
LONDON — Researchers from Belgium have won $1.05 million funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the philanthropic endeavor led by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his partner Priscilla Chan, to develop a new chip to study the mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease.
The funding, part of a $51.95 million program for CZI’s Neurodegeneration Challenge Network, aims to bring together experimental scientists from diverse biomedical research fields, as well as computational biologists and physicians to understand the underlying causes of neurodegenerative disorders. The Belgian team is led by professor Patrik Verstreken (VIB-KU Leuven), alongside clinical expert professor Wim Vandenberghe (UZ Leuven) and neuro-engineer Dr. Dries Braeken (imec).
Neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, and ALS, are a class of diseases that affect millions of people worldwide. The causes of most of the diseases are only partly understood, and there are still no effective therapies to cure, prevent, or even treat most of these disorders.
Alzheimer's disease alone is the fifth most common cause of death for Americans above age 65, and the number of people with Alzheimer's and related dementias is predicted to nearly triple – from 5 million people to 14 million people – by 2060.
The Belgian team plans to create a new chip to study the mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease.
“We will produce mature human neuronal microcircuits that are relevant to Parkinson’s disease on a multi-electrode array chip," saidimec’s Braeken said. "This chip will be used to measure electrophysiological changes between neuronal circuits of cells obtained from healthy people and from an extensive collection of Parkinson’s patients.”
The 2D chip is a first step to develop a 3D human-relevant model for brain function and disease.
Verstreken said the goal is to "print" tiny portions of the human brain on a unique chip, giving researchers access to human brain tissue, from both patients and healthy individuals. They will use the technology not only to track disease progression, but also to screen for strategies to correct problems. Meanwhile, Vandenberghe, said the potential benefits expand far beyond the field of Parkinson’s.
“While we will develop this chip using tissue from Parkinson’s patients, the same technology can be used to create better models for Huntington’s disease, or any other neurodegenerative disease for that matter," Vandenberghe said.
The foundation selected nine project teams from a competitive international call. Next to the Belgian consortium, only one other non-US team was selected.
CZI said that despite tremendous investment and progress in understanding neurodegenerative diseases, there remains a surprising amount of very basic information about their biology that is not known. The initiative is hoping to inspire a new approach to tackling neurodegenerative disease, supporting interdisciplinary collaborations and generating shared tools, resources and platforms.

‘No one with Parkinson’s disease should live alone’

December 9, 2018

Joining the MPDA can really make a difference to people’s lives. Members are welcoming and friendly, and people attending meetings for the first time often regret not having attended earlier.

Anne Downing founded the Malta Parkinson’s Disease Association (MPDA) shortly after relocating to Malta in 2008. She had already been involved in Parkinson’s organisations for many years in the UK.

Her mother, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s way back in 1974, joined what was then called the Parkinson Disease Society in 1978 – now known as Parkinson’s UK.

Parkinson’s is a neurodegerative disorder that affects predominantly dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain. Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The cause remains largely un­known. People with Parkinson’s may experience tremour, limb rigidity, gait and balance problems. The first step to living well with Parkinson’s is to understand the disease and its progression.
Anne and her husband Victor, who were moving to Malta, found out that no ser­vices or even information in Maltese or English was available for people with Parkinson’s.

With the help of consultant geriatrician Peter Ferry, who was extremely supportive and helpful in helping bring the new organisation into being, they managed to form a committee of volunteers and, after getting through all the legal work, the MPDA was inaugurated in 2008.

Straight away, the MPDA met with its members every month, sharing and discussing information about Parkinson’s from health professionals who worked closely with people suffering from the disease.
The organisation offers support and advice seven days a week
After setting up the organisation, the MPDA was able to apply for membership of the European Parkinson’s Disease Association and in turn funded the translation and printing of the Living with Parkinson’s booklet in Maltese.

Fundraising activities started to take place, including sponsored swims, walks, street collections and musical concerts. Donations from pharmaceutical companies also helped a great deal. Information days were held in Malta and Gozo, as were house visits when requested.

So, from nothing, the MPDA developed into an organisation ready to support people afflic­ted by Parkinson’s as well as their families.

Today the MPDA carries on its work under my leadership and a new team of amazing volunteers. I came on board in 2012 when Ms Downing was returning to the UK. Parkinson’s is at the heart of my family, as my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008. In fact, joining the MPDA was the perfect way for me to learn more and do more.

Using the limited time its volunteers have to offer, the MPDA does a really good job supporting people with Parkinson’s who reach out for help.
The association offers advice and support seven days a week and not only brings the Parkinson’s community together once a month to learn how to manage this complex condition but also organises social events to have fun together by chatting over a cup of tea.

It also organises other social and fundraising events, as well as home visits, for those who cannot reach the organisation.

The rest of the time is spent raising awareness of this condition with the public and with politicians so that a more supportive environment is created.

Joining, helping the MPDA

No one suffering from Parkinson’s should live alone. Joining the MPDA can really make a difference to people’s lives. Members are welcoming and friendly, and people attending meetings for the first time often regret not having attended earlier.

Volunteering, on the other hand, brings joy and personal satisfaction. There is no better way to support your loved ones by learning more about Parkinson’s to better understand what kind of support they need.

Very often, it’s easy for those suffering to think they are alone in their battle against Parkinson’s. However, through links with Europe and the EPDA, the MPDA shares the work being carried out by people in bigger and smaller countries. There are also many people who are working hard to improve awareness of Parkinson’s with those involved in money decisions, research and healthcare systems. 

The MPDA is a voluntary organisation relying on donations and fundraising. Those wishing to support the association by donating money can do so via SMS on 5061 8908 (€4.66) or 5061 9296 (€11.65).

For more information, call or text 9999 2008, e-mail or follow the association on Facebook for the latest updates.

Medical News KEY-X Smart Keyboard for People with Disabilities IndieGoGo launch

December 9. 2018

(FastNewsMedia Editorial):- Miami Gardens, Dec 9, 2018 ( – Key2Enable Assistive Technology Inc. announces starting December 11th the “live” launch of the Smart Keyboard for People with Disabilities on IndieGoGo. Key-X is the world’s first keypad that gives people with Cerebral Palsy, Tremors, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Down Syndrome, Autism, and other motor, physical and intellectual disabilities autonomy to use and control any computer.

If you or your loved one has a physical, visual, or cognitive disability, then you will need a smart keyboard to help you with all your computing needs. These can either be one-handed keyboards, onscreen keyboards or voice responsive keyboards depending on the type of disability you have.
What sets the Key-X smart keyboard apart from others are four smart keyboards that can be used by people with disabilities detailed below.
This is a keyboard that you can easily use and setting it up only takes a few minutes. The keyboard is also extremely versatile and has the capability of doing some interesting things such as allowing you to choose the final position of your letter selection. Also, it has an option of setting a custom keyboard layout which you can print out yourself. However, these keyboards are no longer being manufactured hence it is hard to get them in the market. The smartphone keyboards have in many ways replaced this keyboard.
Keyguards can be considered as the most effective low tech solution for people with disability since it is not difficult to hit the keys accurately. The keyboard’s design is very impressive, and it mostly favors those with a physical disability. The good thing is that you can also install it in your smartphone consequently improving your typing experience.
Compact Keyboard
The size of this keyboard allows you to perfectly place it on a wheelchair tray or work desk making it a good keyboard for cerebral palsy patients. Since it is small-sized and doesn’t have a numeric keypad the pointing device is positioned appropriately to allow easy control. Notably, the most popular compact keyboard that you will get in the market is Cherry, and the good thing is that you can get a matching KeyGuard in case you need it.
This is a standard push button keyboard, but the only difference is that it has bigger keys. Additionally, the keys are clearly marked with the text being printed 11 times larger than that found in regular keyboards. As such, this is a very popular keyboard for Parkinson’s patients and those with visual impairment. Since the keyboard is designed similar to the standard keyboard, there is no special software or drivers that are required to run it. The big keys are also very helpful for kids with motor disabilities.
There are many causes of disability some of which are completely unavoidable. However, even if one is disabled, they have a right of digital inclusion hence special keyboard are essential. With a special keyboard, the disabled will be at par with the rest of the society when it comes to computing.
For more information please visit the IndieGoGo Campaign at and help raise a modest $15,000 for this campaign

HashTags: #cerebralpalsy, #autism
Media Contact:
William de Oliveira
President & Co-Founder
Key2Enable Assistive Technology Inc.
Tel. (786) 717-7975 | Cell (954) 673-1973
william.oliveira @
6175 NW 167th Street, #G4 – Miami Gardens FL 33015
Twitter: @key2enable
Youtube @key2enable

Mt. Pleasant vets take their sons to attend former President Bush's memorial

December 9, 2018  By Corey Micho, and corey_micho on Twitter

When Mt. Pleasant army veteran Patrick Birgy was watching the funeral of former First Lady Barbra Bush, he made a promise to his sons.
“I told them we were going to go to the funerals of all of the presidents that I was deployed under,” he said.
When George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the united states died from complications from Parkinson’s disease on Nov. 30, Birgy’s youngest son, Daniel, reminded him of that promise.
“I guess we’re going now,” Daniel told his father that day.
Patrick Birgy said that his son has a sharp memory and was planning to keep him to his word.
At that point, Patrick Birgy, Daniel Birgy and Max Birgy, along with Marine Corps veteran Tom Creuger and his two sons, Reid Creuger, Brock Creuger and Xavier Creuger, prepared themselves for a 10-hour road trip from Mt. Pleasant to Washington D.C. to pay tribute to the president that both veterans were first deployed under on Dec. 1.
They took time to prepare for the trip, according to Xavier Creuger.
“My mom made sure that we were all prepared with snacks and a cooler for the trip,” he said.
Once they were all packed, after their Mt. Pleasant team won in a basketball game against Sacred Heart Academy, they left their house at around 10 p.m. Monday night. The group got to Washington D.C. at around 8 a.m., according to Tom Creuger and the kids.
They first made their way to the U.S. Capitol Building, where the former president’s casket was on display.
“There was a lot of secret service agents,” said Max Birgy. “There was also a big line in the left side of the rotunda for the people to see the casket.”
After they waited in line, they saw the casket that contained the former president. Five guards from each branch of the U.S. military was guarding the flag-draped casket, according to Pat Birgy. The boys said that they felt the importance of what George H.W. Bush represented.
“I was honored,” Xavier Creuger said. “It made me realize how much he did for our country.”
The boys also talked about what George H.W. Bush did in his lifetime, including joining the navy six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and a recently unearthed note of encouragement that he gave to former President Bill Clinton after he took office in 1991.
After they payed their respects, the boys wrote in a book thanking the former president for his service.
“Thank you so much for your service,” Brock Creuger wrote in the book.
The process took around 20 minutes, according to Tom Creuger.
Once they got out of the Capitol Building, they went to Arlington National Cemetery where Tom Creuger said the boys learned a lesson that they would never learn elsewhere.
“When you all look at the tombstones, you can't tell if the person's white, black, Hispanic,” he told ABC12 out of Flint, “All you know they lived and they died and they served their country.”
He also told them that the soldiers who die in the line of service made the world a better place through their service.

TOP STORY Man with Parkinson's perseveres, makes art despite shaking hand

December 9, 2018     

Bob Sharp

The artist’s hand moves up and down making small, even pencil strokes on the paper.
“This is a gorilla,” Bob Sharp says.
Up and down, the fur. Shorter strokes, an eye.
When he lifts his right hand, the pencil is still in motion — up and down, up and down, like a conductor waving a baton.
It started on his left side, a limp and then his foot, perpetually in motion. Grandpa, his grandkids would ask, why are you tapping your foot?
That was nearly 20 years ago. Bob and Ellen were living in Ord, where he worked as postmaster. Five years ago, the high school sweethearts from Bridgeport moved back to Lincoln — where they’d worked and raised their three daughters — to be closer to Bob’s doctors.
Ellen died in May. Bob moved to Orchard Park Assisted Living after that.
“I sure miss her,” the 75-year-old says from his sunny room near the courtyard.
His Parkinson’s is advanced. It’s hard for him to hold his head up. His glasses slip down his nose. He wipes his mouth with a white washcloth to stop the saliva. He wears support socks and black shoes that close with Velcro.
He takes 18 pills a day and he’s hoping to start another treatment soon, one that involves electrodes attached to his brain and a remote to zap the synapses and make the shaking go away.
He’s smart and kind and talented.
Friday morning, he’s in his wheelchair, a walker nearby. His visiting nurse, Amber Russell, just finished tending to a wound on his foot.
Her patient drew a sketch of her son and his dog. “It’s not very good,” he says.
He’s wrong.
“A lot of his artwork, it just amazes me,” the nurse says.
The evidence is on the wall of Room 38, held up with thumbtacks. A portrait of a young man — a former employee with mischievous eyes. An old cowboy, a solemn Indian, a half-dozen sketches of a bushy-haired old man, Bob’s attempts to bring John Neihardt to life.
In the middle of the gallery, there’s a photograph of a younger Bob, tall and strong, posing in a friend’s front yard with Ellen. “We’d been out dancing.”
Bob started drawing as a boy. His mom was artistic, painting the glass panels of the doors in their Panhandle home for the holidays. His sister had talent, too. And Bob took a few art classes in college, first at Chadron State and then UNL, but he never learned much from his professors. “I was better than they were.”
Back in Chadron, a secretary asked him to draw a picture of her family. Get this done by tomorrow and I’ll give you $5, she told him.
He sold other drawings, too, but usually by the time he paid for mattes and frames, he lost money.
He got his degree in psychology, taking classes during the day and walking over to the downtown post office to start an eight-hour shift.
He kept drawing. Teaching himself and emulating the techniques of others. The shading he does was inspired by Paul Calle, a now-dead artist who sketched scenes of the American West and designed dozens of postage stamps.
Calle used something called the “line-stroke method,” Bob says. Quick, short pencil strokes to shape the images.
“It makes the drawing just come alive.”
Bob has a clipboard on his lap; the gorilla drawing taking shape in one corner. One eye staring out, the body just beginning to form.
He puts the pencil down.
“I’m having trouble.”
Her dad’s hands shake more when he’s excited, says Jewell Ronne, one of Bob’s three daughters. When she calls from Chicago, they Facetime and his face shakes on her phone screen.
She can’t remember a time her dad didn’t draw. One drawing in particular impressed her — a little girl and her dog.
“The whole picture was done with just dots. I used to take it for show and tell.”
Her father’s disease has taken so much from him, she says. The ability to move and be independent. His left hand is bent, nearly frozen in place.
But it hasn’t taken his art.
“It does amaze me that he still has the ability.”
It amazes Jane Wasserman, too. She worked with Bob years ago and she and her husband, Ron, have helped him in these last years as he and Ellen transitioned back to Lincoln.
He has returned their kindness with art: Ron on a horse. Ron in a cowboy hat playing the guitar. An intricate Western scene in a frame that he no longer had room for.
“Talking to him on the phone and the receiver would just be banging against his head,” Jane says. “It just seemed unbelievable he could still draw.”
Bob draws nearly every day. He finds photographs on the internet and pulls them up on the big screen of his computer. He puts on headphones and plays Billy Joel.
“I get lost in it. I can sketch for hours.”
He’d like to draw his fellow residents. He’s thinking of hosting a little art show, asking if anyone wants to sit for him.
“I’m working up to it,” he says. “I don’t want to impose.”
Friday morning, Bob thanks his nurse for tending to his foot.
Bob is so kind, she says. “He’s superappreciative of everything.”
The artist’s life is so different now, so much smaller. He remembers the day back in Ord a decade ago, driving his car out of the garage and not being able to find the brake. He hit the garage wall and then a parked car. He quit driving, thankful he hadn’t hurt anyone.
“I don’t feel sorry for myself. I did once and I don’t want to go there again.”
But he sees his limitations on the paper. He points out the pencil strokes going in just one direction because he no longer has the dexterity to change the arc.
You can see, too, if you look.
But mostly you see beauty and perseverance.
When he puts down his pencil, the people on the page don’t look like the images he’s trying to recreate, Bob says.
“But I do like the people who show up.”

A new blood test could help diagnose Alzheimer's

Maria Cohut   Saturday 8 December 2018

Doctors may find it hard to diagnose Alzheimer's disease before the obvious symptoms set in, and many of the current tests for it are expensive and complicated. However, researchers recently devised a blood test that could accurately detect this condition.

Recent research aimed to develop an accurate blood test to diagnose Alzheimer's.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, the condition will affect an estimated 5.7 million people in the United States by 2050.

Despite this, there are few ways of accurately diagnosing Alzheimer's disease early on.

These include MRI and CT scans, which help doctors rule out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms.

Another way of diagnosing Alzheimer's is by collecting cerebrospinal fluid and looking for biomarkers of the disease. This is the most accurate test for this neurodegenerative condition, but it is costly and invasive.

For all these reasons, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA, have been developing a blood test for Alzheimer's that aims to be accurate, more cost-effective, and less unpleasant.

In the study paper, which appears in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, the researchers explain that the test may be able to detect biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease before the appearance of obvious symptoms.

Test may be 'a transformative breakthrough'

One mark of Alzheimer's and other types of dementia in the brain is the formation of toxic plaques, some of which appear due to a buildup of tau proteins.

Tau proteins are made of related molecules with somewhat different properties. In the new study, the researchers started by devising a method to identify the specific subset of tau molecules that appear at high levels in Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers came up with ways of detecting different types of tau molecules in both blood and cerebrospinal fluid, and they tested these methods in samples of plasma (a blood component) and cerebrospinal fluid from two sets of participants (65 in the first group and 86 in the other).

One group of samples came from volunteers enrolled in the Harvard Aging Brain Study, and some who had participated in research at the Institute of Neurology in London, United Kingdom.

The second group came from volunteers recruited by specialists at the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University of California, San Diego.

The team assessed five tests for tau molecules, looking to see which would be most effective. In the end, the scientists settled on a test that they called "the NT1 assay," which demonstrated both sensitivity and specificity, meaning that it was able to accurately detect Alzheimer's.

"A blood test for Alzheimer's disease," claims study author Dominic Walsh, "could be administered easily and repeatedly, with patients going to their primary care office rather than having to go into [the] hospital."

"Ultimately, a blood-based test could replace cerebrospinal fluid testing and/or brain imaging," he suggests, adding, "Our new test has the potential to do just that."
"Our test will need further validation in many more people, but if it performs as in the initial two cohorts, it would be a transformative breakthrough."
Dominic Walsh
The researchers stress that while they verified the test in blood samples from two different cohorts, they will need to conduct further trials with larger groups of participants to fully establish the effectiveness of the test.

Also, they now aim to learn more about how tau protein levels change as the condition progresses, compared with their levels before Alzheimer's symptoms set in.

"We've made our data and the tools needed to perform our test widely available because we want other research groups to put this to test. It's important for others to validate our findings so that we can be certain this test will work across different populations," notes Walsh.

World-first electrical stimulation device blazes a new trail into the brain

MEDICAL Nick Lavars    December 3rd, 2018

Scientists have developed what they say is the first device to record or stimulate electrical brain activity from within a blood vessel(Credit: DeryaDraws/Depositphotos)

Open brain surgery is about as dangerous as it sounds, but for sufferers of conditions like Parkinson's and epilepsy it can be the only way to relieve their symptoms. Unfortunately, this means drilling a hole in the skull and stimulating the brain with electrical currents, bringing on the risk of serious side effects. Fortunately, scientists have opened a new doorway to the brain, developing the Stentrode, a promising first-of-a-kind device that can deliver the currents to targeted areas through a small keyhole incision in the neck.

Deep electrical brain stimulation, or DBS, is a hugely promising area of scientific research that could have wide-ranging implications. By applying electrodes to areas of the brain to excite specific neurons, researchers have made very promising advances in everything from slowing the onset of Alzheimer's, to helping paralyzed people feel sensations again, to improving the moods of sufferers of severe depression

But the process is hugely invasive, requiring scientists to carve out a piece of the skull and inserting wires to deliver the electrical currents to different regions of the brain. Scientists have made some inroads into less invasive techniques that apply currents via the scalp, but a new matchstick-sized device developed at the University of Melbourne is able to enter via a blood vessel instead, opening up a new avenue and a whole host of new possibilities. 

"Removing the surgical need for open brain surgery is a huge benefit to patients," Dr Nicholas Opie, a biomechanical engineer who worked on the development of the Stentrode device, explains to New Atlas. "This will significantly reduce their risk of infection, and will reduce the number of days they need to spend in a hospital as our technique is a day procedure. Further, we are not directly touching the brain as the Stentrode is contained and protected within a blood vessel, so the rejection of electrodes that has been reported to occur to penetrating devices has not occurred."

 Opie and his team have been working on this technology as a replacement for open brain surgery since 2012. The finished product consists of a microwire and microcatheter that can be inserted via a small hole in the neck and guided through the blood vessel by X-ray until it is in place over the brain's motor cortex. Different electrodes along the length of the Stentrode can then be wirelessly activated to stimulate neurons in different brain regions that correspond with different conditions. As Opie tells us, there were a lot of factors to consider in finalizing the design.

"The primary challenge was to develop a device that could be delivered through a small catheter, around 1 mm, that would then expand to the size of the vessel when deployed," he says. "The device also needed to be made such that the electrodes were as large as possible, could stimulate independent and focused cortical areas, and that they did not restrict blood flow. We are excited that we were able to achieve this."
The researchers have tested the device in a vein running over the motor cortex in sheep, observing its performance compared to electrode arrays placed on the scalp, along with the needle-like electrodes used in current deep brain stimulation. Promisingly, they were able to show that it could activate brain regions that correspond with certain muscle movements in isolation, say a leg or or a lip. But stimulating the brain is only part of the picture.
The Stentrode device also has the ability to monitor electrical signals coming from the brain, creating a two-way communication device that could enable advanced prosthetic devices that can not only touch, but "feel." For example, it could one day help a paralyzed patient use a prosthetic hand to pick up an item and use the feedback to adjust their grip so they don't grasp it too tightly or softly.
"To our knowledge, we are the only team in the world that has been able to demonstrate the ability of recording or stimulating the brain from within a blood vessel using a device suitable for chronic implantation," says Opie. "By having this ability, we could potentially treat a wide range of neurological conditions, including paralysis by recording motor intent and converting these brain signals to computer, wheelchair or exoskeleton control, Parkinson's by supplying stimulation to suppress the tremor, epilepsy by recording from the brain and listening to when a seizure is about to occur and providing stimulation to prevent the occurrence, as well as depression, PTST and OCD. The future possibilities appear to be endless."
Opie says his team has done a "vast mount" of preclinical testing to make sure the device is safe for use in humans, and will conduct their first clinical trials early in 2019, with paralysis earmarked as one of its most promising applications. 
"We are excited to learn the extent of what we will be able to get a person with paralysis to control with their mind," he says.
The team's latest research involving testing Stentrode on sheep was published in Nature Biotechnology.