Temporal Pattern of Neural Stimulation as a New Dimension of Therapeutic Innovation

Date(s) - 10/02/2017
3:00 pm

Leadership Seminar Speaker: Warren M. Grill, Ph.D., Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Professor of Neurobiology, Professor of Neurosurgery, Duke University

Electrical stimulation for treatment of neurological disorders, diseases, or injuries has relied on controlling the effects of stimulation through selection of stimulation amplitude, pulse duration, and pulse repetition frequency. I introduce a new parameter dimension – the temporal pattern of stimulation – and demonstrate that temporal patterns of stimulation can be used as a probe to understand brain function and therapeutic mechanisms and as a design parameter to increases the efficacy and energy efficiency of neural stimulation therapies. Our finding that the effects of deep brain stimulation (DBS) were dependent on the temporal pattern of stimulation [Dorval et al. 2010], in addition to the frequency of stimulation, inspired the design of novel temporal patterns of DBS. Patterns were developed that treat the symptoms of PD more effectively than conventional regularly patterned DBS [Brocker et al. 2013a] or enable equivalent treatment of symptoms but with a substantial reduction in the required energy [Brocker 2017]. This latter innovation is an important consideration for the size, recharge frequency, and battery life of implanted pulse generators. This concept was then extended to develop temporal patterns of DBS to probe the causative association between oscillatory patterns of brain activity and the symptoms of movement disorders. Collectively, the results demonstrate the utility of a new dimension of neural stimulation parameters – the timing between stimulation pulses – as a novel tool to explore brain function and a technology to increase the efficacy and efficiency of neural stimulation therapies.


Warren M. Grill is the Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. He received the B.S. degree in biomedical engineering in 1989 from Boston University and the Ph.D. in biomedical engineering in 1995 from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH.

Professor Grill teaches courses on circuits and instrumentation, bioelectricity, and on the fundamentals and applications of electrical stimulation. In 2008 he received the Capers & Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research at Duke University, in 2013 was awarded Outstanding Postdoc Mentor at Duke University, and in 2014 received the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award at Duke.

His research interests are in neural engineering and neuromodulation and include design and testing of electrodes and stimulation techniques, the electrical properties of tissues and cells, and computational neuroscience with applications to restoration of bladder function, treatment of movement disorders with deep brain stimulation, and electrical stimulation for treatment of pain. He has published over 170 peer reviewed journal articles and has been awarded 35 US patents.

He is Co-Founder, Director, and Chief Scientific Officer of NDI Medical, a medical device incubator, Co-Founder, Director, and Chief Scientific Officer of DBI, which is commercializing a novel approach to brain stimulation for neurological disorders, and Chief Scientific Advisor at SPR Therapeutics, which has developed a novel therapy for treating pain. In addition, he provides technical consulting to both small and large medical device companies.

Dr. Grill serves as a Consultant to the Neurological Devices Panel of the FDA Medical Devices Advisory Committee, a member of the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Prosthetics and Special-Disabilities Program, and on the editorial boards of Brain Stimulation, Journal of Neural Engineering, and Current Opinion in Biomedical Engineering. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering in 2007, elected as a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society in 2011, and was awarded a Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award by NIH-NINDS in 2015.