Dr. Marom Bikson is a Cattell Professor of Biomedical Engineering at The City College of New York (CCNY) of the City University of New York (CUNY) and co-Director of the Neural Engineering Group at the New York Center for Biomedical Engineering. The translational R&D activity of his group spans pre-clinical studies, computational models, device design and fabrication, regulatory activities, and clinical trials.
Technologies developed by his group are in clinical trials in over 100 medical centers and include neuromodulation interventions for neuropsychiatric disorders, intra- and post-operative sensors, patient compliance tools, and surgeon training simulators.
By Jose L. Cánovas
We are living a boom in the field of neuroscience. Can you explain us what your first steps have been in this area?
I have long been interested in the how engineering and technology innovation can improve neurological and mental health.
Which kind of diseases could be improved thanks to electrical stimulation of the brain?
Almost any brain disease can benefit in theory from electrical stimulation. Electrical stimulation may not always be a cure, but it can enhance the effects of other therapies and increase quality of life. Applications include depression, chronic pain, epilepsy, learning and attention disorders, and other neuro-psychiatric disorders.
When you were in Barcelona, you assured that the use electro-stimulation with electrodes in the brain of healthy people, in order to improve mental cognition, will experiment a transformation over the next few years. What kind of improvements are we going to see?
Consumer devices are already here. One company called Thync has a device focused on healthy individuals and performance. Another company called Caputron Medical has a personal healthcare device FDA cleared for depression, anxiety, and insomnia. These companies are the early leaders but many more are coming. My own company Soterix Medical is currently running clinical trials on home-used of tDCS to treat a range of disorders include multiple sclerosis, pain, and cognitive decline.
What new developments in biomedical engineering are you working on at the City University of New York?
My lab is always working to create new technology to change and heal the brain. We work on two approaches. One is invasive / implanted which is technologies like Deep Brain Stimulation that require surgery. The other is non-invasive. These are devices that you wear on your head, like a cap, and provide painless low intensity current to the brain. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is one of these non-invasive approaches. tDCS was re-discovered in Germany in 2000. A limitation of tDCS is that it is not so focal, it provides current to much of the brain. My group developed High-Definition tDCS which allows tDCS to be almost as focused as implanted technologies. So HD-tDCS as all the simplicity and safety benefits of cap approach, but is targeted to a brain region.
What recent advances have been achieved in the cerebral cortex research?
The use of non-invasive brain stimulation has allowed us to test the role of specific brain regions in learning and memory.
How soon will we see people with implantable devices in their brains?
This technology is around for decades. It is called Deep Brain Stimulation. But it is only for the sick, not healthy. I do not anticipate people will volunteer of surgery for implants any time soon. Rather I think the focus will be on the non-invasive helmets.
What technologies or apps linked to neuroscience will be essential in the near future?
If neuromodulation becomes a sort of coffee or meditation or focus tool, then it may become a common lifestyle product.
Dr. Marom Bikson
Dr. Bikson has published over 200 papers and book-chapters and is inventor on over 30 patent applications. He is known for his work on brain targeting with electrical stimulation, cellular physiology of electric effects, and electrical safety. Dr. Bikson co-invented High-Definition transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (HD-tDCS), the first non-invasive, targeted, and low-intensity neuromodulation technology. Dr. Bikson consults for medical technology companies and regulatory agencies on the design, validation, and certification of medical instrumentation.
Dr. Bikson is co-founder of Soterix Medical Inc. and WiPOX LLC. Prior to becoming faculty at CUNY, Dr. Bikson was a research fellow at the University of Birmingham Medical School, UK and a Research Associate at Sontra Medical LLC, in Cambridge Mass. Dr. Bikson received a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland OH, and a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MD.