Scientists for New Brain Pacemaker Honoured

Prof. Dr. Dr. Peter A. Tass
© FZ Jülich

Prof. Dr. Dr. Peter A. Tass from the Research Centre Jülich and Prof. Dr. Volker Sturm from the University of Cologne have been awarded the prize for their development of a brain pacemaker for the treatment of nervous disorders such as Parkinson's Disease. The prize worth 50,000 euros is conferred annually for outstanding interdisciplinary research.

Tass, physician, mathematician and physicist, heads the Research Group Magnetoencephalography and Brain Pacemakers at the Institute of Medicine of the Research Centre Jülich. Prof. Sturm is a physician and Director of the Clinic for Stereotaxis and Functional Neurosurgery at the University of Cologne.

"This year's prizewinners have succeeded excellently in combining mathematics, physics and medicine in a cross-disciplinary approach. This enabled them to develop a therapy to specifically counteract certain pathological processes in Parkinson's patients," explained jury member Prof. Johanna Stachel.

Prof. Dr. Volker Sturm
© Dr. Bührle, Köln

Tass and his staff simulated the synchronous firing of the affected brain areas in mathematical models. Using methods from mathematics and physics, they developed stimulation techniques which use the self-organisational processes of the neuron chains and so are particularly effective and compatible.

Their newly-acquired insights enabled the scientists to develop a new method of brain stimulation that delivers individual electrical impulses to various groups of nerve cells as required. This method does not suppress the nerve impulses as in the case of conventional implants, but rather desynchronises them. As the successful first clinical trials carried out together with the research partner Prof. Sturm at the University Hospital Cologne demonstrated, the tremors that patients with Parkinson's or MS experience are better suppressed and only require a much lower stimulation current.

This is why the scientists expect that this mild but very efficient modulation of nerve cell activity will cause fewer side effects in long-term application. Furthermore, the method also seems to provide a ray of hope for the treatment of other neurological or psychiatric disorders.; Source: Stifterverband