Sensor could monitor effectiveness of brain treatments

Published: November 25 2019
Last updated: September 28 2022

A new type of micro sensor could help tell doctors of the effectiveness of epilepsy treatments.

Many conditions including epilepsy, depression and chronic pain are caused by neurotransmitter disorders in the brain.

Neurotransmitters inside the brain allow for cells to communicate with each other through chemicals. Conditions such as epilepsy are in part caused by problems in the production of these chemicals.

Deep brain stimulation involves stimulating the brain using electricity to help produce neurotransmitters. If the new sensor can be added to the brain, doctors would get a great picture of how it’s responding to the treatment. Normally neurotransmitters are too small to be seen by human eyes.

As well as volume of neurotransmitter chemicals, experts want to know their location and how fast cells are sending and receiving these chemicals. The techniques used today are unable to measure this information.

Academy of Finland researcher Emilia Peltola is behind the new sensor. She believes that if measurements inside the body were to become possible, researchers could develop new diagnostic and treatment methods.

“A definite benefit of such sensors would be the real-time nature of the data they produce,” she said. “Neurotransmitters move very rapidly, and only a real-time method can let us know how much of a specific substance is present at each given moment. Treatments would become more effective and the risk of adverse effects would reduce.”

“We could have new treatments that would not only slow down diseases, but stop or even cure them.”

Currently, Emilia Peltola is investigating the right kind of material that would work best as a sensor. Because when the sensor is placed into human tissue, the body’s immune system acts to create scar tissue to protect the body. This can stop the sensor from measuring what it’s supposed to. The Finnish researchers hope to create a sensor that would allow it to become part of its tissue. Once the materials are completed, testing can then take place.

It’s hoped that the study help further the knowledge of how the brain works as well as how certain conditions work, including epilepsy.