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Using Artificial Intelligence to Improve Healthcare for All


Parkinson’s disease, which afflicts one million Americans, causes both unwanted movements, such as hand tremors, as well as difficulty in initiating movements, such as taking a step. These symptoms interfere with the ability to do many everyday activities most people take for granted.

Medicines help, but lose their power as the disease progresses.

Another, newer option is deep brain stimulation, in which small pulses of electricity are delivered to the brain using an implanted electrode. If the implantation is successful, a patient’s motor symptoms can be reduced significantly.

This technology is made possible by an ever-growing understanding of brain anatomy and the roles played by its various parts. The subthalmic nucleus (STN), for example, is part of the basic movement circuitry in the brain. In Parkinson’s patients, the STN fires in synchrony with other areas of the brain when it shouldn’t, causing problems with movement.

Pulses of electricity can disrupt this faulty firing. Cameron McIntyre, Ph.D., an expert in deep brain stimulation, says, “You’re not necessarily restoring the brain back to normal. You’re overriding pathological activity and replacing it with white noise.” McIntyre will be joining the Duke faculty in July 2021 with appointments in biomedical engineering and neurosurgery. “When we do AI […]

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