This device precisely and non-invasively controls brain immune responses to with the potential to radically transform the ability to treat brain diseases, injuries, and mood disorders; study inflammation in brain function; and promote healthy aging. This non-invasive stimulation has been shown to boost stress resilience and reduce stress pathology that leads to depression, anxiety, and many other disorders.
Developed by researchers at Georgia Tech, this novel approach delivers visual and/or auditory stimuli with millisecond precision to induce electrical activity by driving cells to fire together on short timescales. Driving the electrical activity in this manner increases functional connectivity in brain networks involved in memory, disorders, and disease (in humans) and increases expression of synaptic markers, that indicate connections between neurons (in mice).
Sensory flicker stimulation triggers a rapid change (<15 minutes) in a subset of inflammatory pathways, followed within an hour by an increase or decrease in production of inflammatory cytokines known to regulate microglia (immune cells), with the direction of change dependent on the frequency of stimulation (in mice). Moreover, chronic multi-sensory flicker stimulation is expected to prevent anxiety, anhedonia, and cognitive impairment following stress. Driving neural activity, therefore, may enable manipulation of molecular signaling in the brain to control inflammation, and stimulation optimized for males and females can boost resilience to stress pathology.
The use of patterns of light and sound turning on and off with precise timing reaches deep brain regions beyond what standard non-invasive neural stimulation (such as transcranial magnetic stimulation TMS) can access. This new method to non-invasively drive brain rhythms may enable new therapies to treat a wide variety of mental and neurological conditions in significantly less time than current interventions.
- Reaches deep brain regions: Drives rhythmic neural activity in deep brain regions that are unreachable by most non-invasive stimulation technology
- Non-invasive: Uses only lights and sound with precise timing and control
- Fast response: Effects are seen in 5 to 30 minutes rather than hours
- Personalized: Optimal type of stimulation for stress prophylaxis is sex-dependent.
- Simple: Provides light and audio sensory flickering that is simple and fast to implement, potentially even in at-home settings
- Flexible: Stimulation increases or decreases immune responses depending on the frequency of stimulation
This novel approach has the potential to treat:
- Brain diseases, injury, and infection
- Cognitive loss and the effects of normal brain aging
- Depression and anxiety disorders
- Other disorders that involve inflammatory signaling, the brain’s immune response, and neural activity
- Neurodegenerative diseases
Brain inflammation is thought to play a critical role in multiple diseases, including neurodegenerative disease, traumatic brain injury (TBI), normal aging, and development disorders like schizophrenia and autism, among others. Methods to precisely and non-invasively modulate brain inflammation and gene/protein expression will radically transform the ability to treat diseases and promote healthy aging as well as to produce model systems to study inflammation and immune signaling in brain function. This Georgia Tech innovation is designed to provide this capability.
How It Works
The sensory stimulus triggers a rapid change (<15 minutes) in a subset of inflammatory pathways, followed within an hour by an increase or decrease in production of inflammatory cytokines known to regulate microglia (immune cells), with the direction of change dependent on the frequency of stimulation (in mice). Driving neural activity, therefore, may enable manipulation of molecular signaling in the brain to control inflammation.