DIH-HERO financed SensArs Neuroprosthetics through the Technology Transfer Experiment

About 50% of diabetic patients develop diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). 10-30% of them develop pain symptoms from the extremities (painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy – pDPN), which is associated to aberrant peripheral sensory inputs (peripheral components), and maladaptive cortical plasticity (central components).

Presently available treatments include drugs which are not effective and cause several side effects (such as lethargy, somnolence, falls). Alternatives are implantable or non-implantable stimulators. These medical devices elicit sensations of paresthesia that reduce the acute occurrence of pain. However, since these sensations are not pleasant, the cognitive/cortical aspects of pain are not addressed, preventing the chronic efficacy of these devices (i.e. pain reoccurs).

We propose BCI-FOR-PAIN, a non-invasive medical device that restores pleasant sensations, and treats pain both in acute and chronic conditions. Pleasant sensations are obtained through the combination of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), virtual reality (VR) and electroencephalography (EEG). TENS on the ankle elicits foot sensations by addressing the tibial nerve, VR increases their perception as if they were coming from the body of the patient, EEG measures the perceived pleasantness from the patient and drives the change of TENS-VR parameters to maximize such pleasantness.

SensArs has already developed and tested with healthy subjects the VR-TENS system, while Mbt has developed and tested an EEG system that decodes the persons’ mood states. The objective of this project is to integrate these technologies and test it with patients affected by pDPN. BCI-FOR-PAIN will provide a novel device for the healthcare system which will provide an effective treatment for pain and save costs connected with ineffective pain cures.