Project involving INESC TEC received the Santa Casa Neurosciences Award

The project, focusing on improving the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy with patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, using personalised electrophysiological biomarkers and stimulation based on objective quantitative assessments, features a team from INESC TEC; the attribution of the Mantero Belard Award took place at the 10th edition of the Santa Casa Neurosciences Awards.

Bringing together a team of clinical experts in DBS, neuroscientists and biomedical engineers, the project kicks off in January 2023; it focuses on the analysis of neurophysiological data of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, with a new generation of neurostimulators that not only stimulate the “deep” areas of the brain, but also read neuronal signals, paving the way for more effective neurostimulation therapies.

The goal is to study each patient individually to identify neuronal activity that may reflect disease-specific states and symptoms. The project will explore these “electrophysiological biomarkers” to improve two complementary aspects of DBS therapy. Moreover, these quantitative measures will be used to propose more concrete and optimised protocols for the parameterisation of neurostimulator configurations. This will significantly increase the likelihood of the patient benefiting from the best settings for the current conditions of the disease, having a direct impact on their quality of life. The team will also evaluate the clinical value of identified neuronal activity biomarkers to monitor disease progression and response to treatment.

INESC TEC is responsible for monitoring all stages of the process, due to the significant component of cross-cutting engineering within the project. “We will apply our knowledge in several areas of neuroengineering, i.e., advanced biosignal processing and machine learning, the acquired know-how on wearable systems for precise characterisation of human movement, or multi-channel approaches to biomedical data synchronised electronically in real time, at the service of the multidisciplinary team; the goal is to achieve the translation of the biomarkers revealed in this project to improve the patients’ lives”, explained João Paulo Cunha, the researcher responsible for the INESC TEC team and coordinator of INESC TEC’s Centre for Biomedical Engineering Research (C-BER).

The award-winning project is led by the i3S – Institute for Research and Innovation in Health and, in addition to INESC TEC, it also includes the Centro Hospitalar Universitário de São João (Neurosurgery and Neurology departments).

The Mantero Belard Award aims to promote and boost scientific or clinical research within the multidisciplinary range of biosciences in the field of neurodegenerative diseases associated with aging, like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, enabling new strategies in the treatment and reestablishment of neurological functions.

It’s important to mention that INESC TEC has developed a set of innovative technologies with real impact on this area, namely the iHandU system, which aims to facilitate the monitoring of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, both from home and in clinical contexts, and enable a better management of these symptoms to improve the patients’ daily lives.

The INESC TEC researcher mentioned in this news piece is associated with INESC TEC and UP-FEUP.

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