Bettina Schwab, assistant professor at the Biomedical Signals and Systems (BSS) group at the faculty EEMCS has been awarded the prestigious individual ERC Starting Grant of 1.5 million euros.
The ERC Starting Grants, provided by the European Research Council, are designed to support excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they are starting their own independent research team or programme.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment for Parkinson’s disease and some other neurological disorders, applying electric currents to the brain. Despite its clinical success, the mechanism of how DBS acts on the brain and relieves motor symptoms is still a mystery. The Starting Grant project DECODE proposes that a critical contribution to the therapeutic effects of DBS may so far have been overlooked: weak electric fields remote from the main stimulation site.
While there is also a lot of potential to optimise DBS empirically, DECODE aims to understand its fundamentals. Once the mechanism is understood, it may open up different options to improve this treatment long-term, reduce side effects, and increase efficiency. Furthermore, the mechanism could in the future inspire the development of treatments for new patient groups or new brain stimulation methods.
DECODE holds an extremely exciting and important place for Bettina. It combines many of her interests in a unique way, including basic science parts on electrodynamics and the dynamics of neurons under the influence of weak and strong electric fields, technological parts on combining different brain stimulation methods, and clinical parts involving patients measurements.