BME Ph.D. candidate awarded 2018 De Luca Foundation Research Scholarship

UF BME Ph.D. candidate, Stephanie Cernera, was awarded a bi-annual research scholarship from the De Luca Foundation for her research project titled, “Wearable-Sensor Driven Responsive Deep Brain Stimulation for the Improved Treatment of Essential Tremor.”

Cernera conducts research in Dr. Aysegul Gunduz’ lab. Cernera’s primary research focus is on neurological disorders, medical device development and brain-computer interfaces. Specifically, her Ph.D. project focuses on the development of a closed-loop deep brain stimulation (DBS) system using information from wearable sensors in essential tremor patients.

DBS is a surgical intervention for patients with medication-refractory essential tremor (ET). This therapy has been proven successful in improving the quality of life for patients with ET; however, DBS currently runs continuously, and continuous stimulation disrupts normal physiological activity. This disruptive paradigm causes adverse side effects, including slurred speech and impairments in balance and gait.

Since ET symptoms are paroxysmal, DBS does not have to be continuously delivered. Cernera’s research hypothesizes that a wearable sensor, which records electromyogram activity, can provide the presence and characteristics of tremor for the means of a closed-loop DBS paradigm. From these efforts, a more personalized stimulation paradigm would be developed for patients, the battery life of the device would be improved, and adverse side effects would be diminished.

The De Luca Foundation (DLF) is a private charitable organization that dedicates its financial resources to serving the Biomechanics Research Community through R&D grants, travel grants, public education, and workshops to foster education, research and innovation in electromyography and human movement sciences.