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February 27th, 2007

I enjoy reading the prognostications of outsiders.

In the March 2007 edition of Wired magazine, there is a well-written article by Steven Gulie about deep-brain stimuation for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. In it, the author presents a first-hand account of his experience being implanted at Stanford with a neurostimulator. What he fails to mention is the manufacturer of that neurostimulator; it was almost certainly made by my employer.

I was particularly interested in these two paragraphs of the article:

“The system can be fine-tuned after the operation by activating various electrodes, shifting the affected area by a millimeter or two. The doctors can also tweak the frequency and amplitude of the electrical stimulation, modify the pulse width, and make other adjustments to the software through a remote control. Wireless? Software? Now that’s brain surgery 2.0.

I asked Henderson [the physician] about features still on the whiteboard: What will be in rev 2.2 or 2.5? He thinks the next release of the stimulator will sense chaotic activity in the brain and turn itself on only when needed. That’s on a par with current heart pacemakers, which no longer mindlessly zap you with a steady pulse but actually look for a problem to fix. The next-gen device will also probably be transdermally rechargeable, so you won’t need surgery to get new batteries.”

I am proud to say that I drew on that whiteboard and worked on that next rev today. I know exactly what will be in the next stimulator, so I find it very amusing to read his predictions. Will it be rechargeable? Will it incorporate a sensor?

Maybe — I’m not telling.

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