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Researchers create novel tool to measure neural activity for treatment of sepsis, PTSD

Researchers create novel tool to measure neural activity for treatment of sepsis, PTSD

A multi-campus research team has developed a novel tool to non-invasively measure cervical nerve activity in humans. device, described in an article in scientific reportThere are potential applications to support more personalized treatment for sepsis and mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Senior author of the study said, “With this newly developed tool we have identified (for the first time) cervical electroneurographic evidence of autonomic (fight or flight versus rest and digestion) biotypes that correspond to different challenges to the autonomic or involuntary nervous system.” Were.” Emanuel Lerman of UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute, School of Medicine, and Jacobs School of Engineering, as well as the VA Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health.

The device consists of a flexible array of electrodes that extend from the lower front to the upper part of the neck, allowing researchers to capture electrical activity in various nerves. Other features include a unified user interface for visualizing data in real time and a custom algorithm for grouping people according to their nervous system’s response to stress.

A safer, less invasive way to study the nervous system

In the past, more reliable methods of measuring nerve activity in the neck called for surgically implanted microelectrodes.

Lerman and Todd Coleman of UC San Diego’s Jacobs School and Stanford University were determined to create a less risky and invasive means of monitoring this part of the nervous system by adapting existing technology. Coleman with co-author Jonas Kurniawan who is now a postdoctoral researcher. Stanford. The new, flexible array can be worn for up to a day and moves smoothly with the patient’s head and neck movements for long-term, painless monitoring.

To detect human autonomic organisms, or groups of patients whose involuntary nervous system responded similarly to stressIn this study, the researchers ran a series of trials in which study participants were asked to place their hands in ice water and then perform timely breathing exercises. The electrode array recorded cervical nerve signaling, called cervical electroneurography by the team, and heart rate in subjects before and after the ice water challenge and during breathing exercises.

The researchers found that study participants consistently fell into two distinct biotype groups: those whose nerve firing and heart rate increased during both tests, and those who exhibited the opposite trend. The device’s unique algorithm also provides a chance to identify differences in the response of specific nerve groups to stress, such as physical symptoms, including pain induced by the ice water challenge and increased heart rate associated with the timed breathing challenge.

“The results are exciting. Our newly developed sensor array was found to be able to record autonomic nervous system activity,” Coleman said. “We were pleasantly surprised to see a consistent autonomic response to the stress test challenges, i.e. the cold pressure test and the deep breathing challenge. More work is needed to demonstrate our sensor capabilities in a larger population.”

Toward the future of personalized medicine

Although the electrode array cannot identify the exact nerves that fire in response to the stress and pain of a cold water challenge, the researchers hope it will someday aid in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as PTSD and sepsis.

The vagus nerve, for example, triggers inflammation in the body in response to injuries or infections, a mechanism that can be disrupted by PTSD. Lerman and colleagues hope that their new device may someday help clinicians measure patients’ response to therapy for PTSD, such as the deep breathing exercises employed during mindfulness meditation, by measuring nerve firing in the vagus nerve. by monitoring. Already, Lerman is one of several researchers using electrical vagus nerve stimulation To test whether stimulating these nerve structures might reduce inflammation and pain in people with PTSD.

In a related application, the array could also be used to boost safety in pilots operating military aircraft, detecting flares in neural activity that indicate dizziness or nausea.

Within a hospital setting, the device could help characterize patients most susceptible to life-threatening conditions such as sepsis by identifying those who respond strongly to physical stress. Sepsis occurs when the body’s immune system overreacts to an infection, damaging its own tissues in the process. The death rate increases by seven percent every hour. Technology that helps detect and characterize hospitalized patients at risk will provide physicians with an early notification to administer antibiotics, thus improving their chances of surviving or surviving sepsis.

As a next step, the researchers plan to integrate the array with additional hardware for wireless, wearable sensors that can be deployed outside the laboratory. Researchers are now moving forward with in-hospital sepsis detection clinical trials.

The study was a multi-pronged effort between researchers from the UC San Diego Qualcomm Institute, the School of Medicine, the Jacobs School of Engineering (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Nanoengineering and Bioengineering), the Department of Physics, and Herbert S. Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science, Stanford University and the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System. The funding was made possible by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the David and Janice Katz Neural Sensor Research Fund in memory of Alan E. Wolf.



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