Nominee 2006

Hirnschrittmacher

Development of an Innovative Brain Pacemaker using Methods taken from Random Physics and Nonlinear Mathematics

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Peter A. Tass (Spokesperson)
Prof. Dr. med. Volker Sturm
Forschungszentrum Jülich in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Universität zu Köln

(f.l.t.r.) Prof. Dr. med. Volker Sturm, Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Peter A. Tass

Many people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease are treated with brain pacemakers – a great help for patients. But the treatment also often has side effects. Can they be avoided?

The answer is “yes, they can” thanks to a new technology for brain pacemakers developed by Peter A. Tass and Volker Sturm. Peter A. Tass is professor for Therapeutic Neurophysiology at the University of Cologne and coordinating director of the Virtual Institute for Neuromodulation at the Research Center Jülich. Volker Sturm is chair and director at the Clinic for Stereotaxis and Functional Neurosurgery at the University of Cologne.

Nerve cells fire simultaneously
In Germany, around 400,000 people are affected by Parkinson’s. This disease is brought on by a malfunction of nerve cells in certain regions of the brain. Instead of firing erratically as they would in a healthy person, Morbus Parkinson causes neurons to send signals simultaneously and with all their might – they are pathologically active and synchronized.

Many Parkinson’s patients with severe motor disturbances that are not treatable with medication are treated with brain pacemakers. In this form of treatment, electrodes are implanted in the affected regions of the brain. The electrical stimulation applied continuously by the pacemaker suppresses neural activity, thereby causing the manifestations of the disease to virtually disappear. Yet in some patients the treatment which also halts normal brain function in the stimulated regions has side effects. Other patients do not respond to treatment.

Gentle stimulation quiets the neurons
The novel brain pacemaker Tass and Sturm have developed works differently: when brain cells begin to fire at the same time, the pacemaker doses pulses to desynchronize the overactive nerve cells. Instead of simply preventing the firing, nerve cell activity is normalized, returned to healthy behavior through the application of mild, targeted stimuli. This makes therapy effective and rules out side effects. In developing this procedure, the researchers mapped the affected network of nerves and their diseased dynamics in models and from them developed gentle stimulation techniques based on mathematical and statistical methods.

The targeted stimuli of the new brain pacemaker cause alterations in the network of nerves – and thereby produce long-term relief from the disease. The new treatment is ideal for motor disturbances and functional impairments following stroke, epilepsy, as well as psychiatric disturbances. Tass and Sturm now hope to ready the pacemaker for clinical use in a jointly founded enterprise.

The right to nominate outstanding achievements for the German Future Prize is incumbent on leading German institutions in science and industry as well as foundations.

The project “Development of an innovative brain pacemaker using methods taken from random physics and nonlinear mathematics” was nominated by the Helmholtz Association.

more details

Resumes

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Peter A. Tass

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Peter A. Tass

29.08.1963
geboren in Ludwigsburg
1982
Abitur
1982 – 1989
Studium der Medizin an der Universität Ulm und der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
1989
Promotion zum Dr. med. an der Medizinischen Fakultät der Universität Ulm
1989 – 1993
Diplomstudium in Mathematik und Promotionsstudium in Physik an der Universität Stuttgart
1993
Promotion zum Dr. rer. nat./Physik an der Universität Stuttgart
1994 – 1999
PostDoc in der Neurologischen Klinik der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
seit 1999
Leiter Arbeitsgruppe Magnetenzephalographie und Hirnschrittmacher,
Institut für Medizin, Forschungszentrum Jülich in der Helmholtz- Gemeinschaft, Jülich
2001
Habilitation und venia legendi für das Fach Physiologie an der Universität Aachen
seit 2002
Professor für Therapeutische Neurophysiologie an der Universität zu Köln
seit 2004
Koordinierender Direktor des Virtuellen Instituts für Neuromodulation,
Forschungszentrum Jülich in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft, Jülich
2005
Gründung der ANM GmbH, Jülich
Gründungsgesellschafter, Wissenschaftlicher Leiter, Beiratsmitglied

Ehrungen:

2000
Fritz-Winter-Preis
2004
Technologiepreis der Freunde und Förderer des Forschungszentrums Jülich in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft, Jülich
2005
Aufnahmen des Projektes „Innovative tiefe Hirnstimulation“ als Leitprojekt Masterplan Gesundheitswirtschaft Nordrhein-Westfalen
2005
Wissenschaftspreis des Stifterverbandes für die Deutsche Wissenschaft
Erwin-Schrödinger-Preis der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

Prof. Dr. med. Volker Sturm

Prof. Dr. med. Volker Sturm

06.12.1943
geboren in Heidelberg
1964
Abitur
1971
Promotion an der Medizinischen Fakultät der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
1972 – 1974
Assistenzarzt, Abt. für Neurochirurgie der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
1975 – 1976
Assistenzarzt, Abtlg. für Stereotaktische Neurochirurgie, Universität des Saarlandes, Homburg/Saar
seit 1979
Oberarzt, Abtlg. für Neurochirurgie der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
1980
Facharzt für Neurochirurgie
1981
Habilitation und venia lengendi für das Fach Neurochirurgie an der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
1979 – 1983
Gastaufenthalte am Karolinska Institut Stockholm, Schweden
1980
Gastwissenschaftler am Hospital Ste. Anne Paris, Frankreich
seit 1983
Professor für Stereotaktische Neurochirurgie an der Ruprecht-Karls- Universität Heidelberg
seit 1988
Lehrstuhlinhaber und Direktor an der Klinik für Stereotaxie und Funktionelle Neurochirurgie an der Universität zu Köln
1995
Firmenausgründung der MRC Systems GmbH Heidelberg
seit 2001
zusätzlich Direktor der Klinik für Steroetaxie und Funktionelle Neurochirugie am International Neurosciene Institute, Hannover
2001
Gründung der CEVEC GmbH, Köln
seit 2005
zusätzlich Lehrstuhlinhaber am Leibniz Institut für Neurobiologie, Magdeburg, Arbeitsgruppe Steroetaktische Neuromodulation
2005
Gründung der AMN GmbH, Jülich
Gründungsgesellschafter, Klinischer Leiter Neurochirurgie, Beiratsmitglied

Ehrungen:

1986
Meyenburg-Preis für hervorragende Leistungen auf dem Gebiet der Krebsforschung
1990
Claudius-Galenus-Preis
2004
Ehrenmitglied der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Medizinphysik
2005
Wissenschaftspreis des Stifterverbandes für die Deutsche Wissenschaft
Erwin-Schrödinger-Preis der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

Contact

Spokesperson

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Peter A. Tass
Leiter Arbeitsgruppe Magnetenzephalographie und Hirnschrittmacher
Institut für Medizin
Forschungszentrum Jülich in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft
Leo-Brandt-Str.
52425 Jülich
Tel.: +49 (0) 2461 / 61 20 87
Fax: +49 (0) 2461 / 61 28 20
E-Mail: p.tass@fz-juelich.de
Web: www.fz-juelich.de

Press

Dr. Angela Lindner
Leitung Öffentlichkeitsarbeit und Pressesprecherin
Forschungszentrum Jülich in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft
52425 Jülich
Tel.: +49 (0) 2461 / 61 46 61
Fax: +49 (0) 2461 / 61 46 66
E-Mail: a.lindner@fz-juelich.de
Web: www.fz-juelich.de

Eugen Berlev
Pressesprecher
Klinikum der Universität zu Köln
Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Kerpener Str. 62
50937 Köln
Tel.: +49 (0) 221 / 47 85 745
Fax: +49 (0) 221 / 47 85 151
E-Mail: Pressestelle@uk-koeln.de
Web: www.uk-koeln.de

A description provided by the institutes and companies regarding their nominated projects

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system. In Germany, there are officially some 150,000 Parkinson’s patients. Estimates, however, assume that between 250,000 to 400,000 people are affected by the disease. The nerve cells of Parkinson’s patients fire simultaneously, i.e. synchronously instead of specifically and in sequence. This causes the typical tremor experienced by most patients.

Treatment involving a brain pacemaker is the standard form of therapy for patients with severe motor disturbances that are not treatable with medication, such as Parkinson’s disease or essential tremor. In this form of treatment, electrodes are implanted in the regions of the brain in which groups of diseased nerve cells synchronously fire. By applying continuous electrical stimulation, the activity of the nerve cells in the targeted regions is dramatically changed and suppressed. Many patients have been helped by the new treatment, but it does have its limits. A significant number of patients experienced side effects or failed to respond to the treatment, in some cases, the therapeutic effect of the treatment decreased or even entirely disappeared.

Prof. Peter Tass and Prof. Volker Sturm have developed an innovative brain pacemaker that is much more effective in counteracting the actual disease processes and easier on the patient. The electrical pulses are dosed as needed, namely only when brain cells begin to fire abnormally at the same time. The action of the nerve cells in the overactive regions of the brain is thus not suppressed, but purposefully desynchronized. To do so, professors Sturm and Tass simulated the affected groups of nerve cells in mathematical models and developed very efficient stimulation techniques using methods taken from mathematics and physics. The development of the conventional brain pacemaker was a result of random observations during neurosurgery.

The unique effect of the new brain pacemaker is based on its exploitation of basic regularities of the nervous system – dynamic self-organizational principles and set rules of learning – in order to obtain the greatest effect with the least impact on the brain. The new brain pacemaker desynchronizes – i.e. it selectively counteracts the diseased synchronisation processes in the affected nerve cell populations. In addition to a suppression of symptoms that is easy on the patient, the effect of the new brain pacemaker aims to allow the brain to heal by helping it through stimulation to specifically unlearn the diseased interactions in the affected groups of nerve cells.

In intra-operative test stimulations, i.e. during implantation of electrodes in patients with pathological tremor, such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and tremor associated with multiple sclerosis, the effect was clearly more effective and easier on the patient compared to conventional brain pacemakers. The desynchronizing effect of the new brain pacemaker opens up entirely new treatment options for a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders characterized by excessive synchronisation processes, specifically motor disturbances, functional impairment following stroke, epilepsy, or severe psychiatric disorders that are not otherwise treatable.

The work of professors Sturm and Tass has taken deep brain stimulation from the stage of empirical, random development to a state-of-the-art stage of model-based design of highly effective stimulation and emulation methods using physics and nonlinear mathematics.

Currently, patients who have received electrode, but not yet generator implants are successfully stimulated during the first week after the operation using the new method. In the next stage, the new brain pacemaker will be further improved and miniaturized. According to schedule, it is to be ready for clinical use within the next three years.

Professors Sturm and Tass also founded a company in 2005 that should make it possible to treat a very large number of patients by the year 2009. Their work has shown that highly effective and mild methods of treatment can be developed using modern mathematics and physics for the benefit not only of a large number of affected individuals, but also to create jobs.
 

Research Centre Jülich
The Research Centre Jülich with its 4,300 employees is the largest multi-disciplinary research centre in Europe and one of the 15 Helmholtz Research Centres in Germany. Its research topics reflect the great challenges facing society:

  • securing food and health for a growing global population,
  • the providing and solution-oriented linking of vast quantities of information,
  • the responsible use of the natural resources of the environment,
  • the sustainable and comprehensive supply of energy.

The centre also makes long-term contributions to basic research in science and technology and develops specific technological applications for industry. Typical of the key competence at Jülich is its focus on physics combined with scientific calculations using supercomputers.

In 2006, to celebrate the anniversary of its founding, the Research Centre Jülich has concentrated on focusing its unique profile. The Research Centre has made strategic alliances with other centres belonging to the Helmholtz Association as well as with universities, businesses and research institutions worldwide.

www.fz-juelich.de

Helmholtz Association
The Helmholtz Association with its 15 research centres is Germany’s largest scientific research organization. The mission of the Helmholtz Association is to make a significant contribution to meeting the challenges and solving pressing problems in the fields of Energy, Earth and the Environment, Health, Transport and Space, Key Technologies, and the Structure of Matter.

www.helmholtz.de

The University of Cologne
The Clinic of the University of Cologne is home to Germany’s only chair for Stereotaxis. Thanks to the dedicated financing efforts of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), unique opportunities have been created. The clinic has three operating theatres, including a magnetic resonance tomography for stereotactic operative procedures as well as state-of-the-art computer equipment. The focus of the clinic includes neuro-modulating methods, in particular deep brain stimulation for motor dysfunction and psychiatric disorders that are not treatable using conventional conservative methods. The clinic for stereotaxis is one of the world’s most experienced clinics in this field. The world’s largest series of Parkinson’s patients, for example, was operated on in Cologne.

Another of the clinic’s focuses is operative pain treatment and stereotactic tumor therapy (implantation of radionuclides, X-ray contact therapy for brain tumors, irradiation surgery with linear acceleration). Scientific applications are development of stereotactic radiation methods for tumors and specifically the development of neuromodulatory methods through deep brain stimulation. The Clinic for Stereotaxis conducts these research programmes in close cooperation with the Research Centre Jülich, the Leibnitz Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg, as well as with neurological and psychiatric university clinics, in particular in NRW.

The right to nominate outstanding achievements for the German Future Prize is incumbent on leading German institutions in science and industry as well as foundations.

The project “Development of an innovative brain pacemaker using methods taken from random physics and nonlinear mathematics” was nominated by the Helmholtz Association.

Winner 2006 · TEAM 1