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Driving innovation in therapeutic brain stimulation with biophysical models

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Electric and magnetic stimulation of the brain have become increasingly used for therapy in numerous neurological disorders over the last 20 years. The domain of therapeutic brain stimulation is complex and dynamic, since it involves many different diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy), stimulation ...

Electric and magnetic stimulation of the brain have become increasingly used for therapy in numerous neurological disorders over the last 20 years. The domain of therapeutic brain stimulation is complex and dynamic, since it involves many different diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy), stimulation devices and protocols (from completely non-invasive stimulation to the chronic implantation of stimulation electrodes in the brain). Despite its use by hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide, it seems paradoxical that, in most cases, the biological mechanisms by which therapeutic brain stimulation can provide symptom relief are unknown. Our limited knowledge in terms of interaction mechanisms dramatically slows down the development of novel brain stimulation techniques, which rely mainly on empiric observations.

Fortunately, a paradigm change has begun, and biophysical modeling has emerged as an alternative tool not only allowing ot understand therapeutic brain stimulation, but also to foster innovation. Realistic models of neurons and neural networks are now routinely used in neuroscience research to better understand the outcome of experimental data, and also to help in experiment design. These models can simulate the activity of single cells (e.g., with the Hodgkin-Huxley model), or, at the other extreme, of the entire brain (Blue Brain project). One especially appealing use of these models is to simulate in silico how electric and magnetic fields modulate neuronal activity at different spatial and temporal scales, to ultimately have an impact on behaviour. This application of biophysical models of brain activity is currently the focus of intense research efforts, with the hope of groundbreaking clinical translations on the horizon.

The objective of this Research Topic is to offer a comprehensive overview of the most recent biophysical models and their contribution in the development of innovative therapeutic brain stimulation techniques, in various neurological disorders. An emphasis should be made on the critical role of biophysical modeling in the rational and effective design of novel brain stimulation techniques, and also in providing key insights into fundamental interaction mechanisms that can be exploited to ends of therapy.


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