Review: Symposium “NeuroStimulate: The Future.”

It was a very nice afternoon, Wednesday April 24th. The visitors of the symposium could enjoy a sunny view on the rooftop terrace one side as well as an interesting variety of talks right in front of them. After a short introductory speech about the goals of EIR, which can be summarized as organizing activities for students interested in medical electrical engineering, conference chair and director of Centre for Care & Cure Technology Eindhoven Maarten Paulides gave the first research-oriented talk. Maarten, a veteran in hyperthermia[1] and MRI research, posed the question to whether elevating a patient’s body temperature locally could aid other forms of brain stimulation. He demonstrated that the methods to apply localized heat as a support for other cures are available already, but he also pointed out that there is limited knowledge about the how the brain responds to heat.

During his talk, Ghent University’s professor Paul Boon demonstrated the wide variety of brain stimulation treatments that are on the market today. Professor Boon is an expert in the field of cognitive neuroscience, and took the discussion about the many variables in brain stimulation treatments to a new level. Positive effects of electrical brain stimulation have been demonstrated by many studies, but it is not always easy to point out where exactly these effects stem from he concluded.

After a short break, Elles Raaijmakers gave an overview of the development of ideas surrounding the origin of thoughts. It turned out that over the scope of roughly 250 years, the models describing neurons evolved from “simple batteries” to “very complicated batteries”. The lives of the scientists were described as well, like those Hodgkin and Huxley. They struggled for 17 years to prove their Noble prize-winning theory. So if you ever feel your life is going slow, know there is always hope.

Dr. Jeannette Lorteije, an assistant professor at Amsterdam University in the field of cognitive systems and neuroscience, continued with an in-depth view of optogenetics[2]. Her fascinating talk explained how neurons can be modified to respond to light in the lab. After modifying, neurons can be turned on or off with highly focused lasers. This method is used to answer questions related to how information is processed in the brain.

The day continued with associate professor Regina Luttge, who divided her time on her ERC-starting grant project working towards her first brain-on-a-chip devices between University of Twente and our own TU/e during the years 2013 and 2016. While since 2017 fulltime at TU/e, she keeps the noble goal in mind to decrease the number of lab animals used in research, she talked about the development of a system to grow organs by means of microfluidics interventions. Cell type, pressure, environment, nutrients – it all appeared to matter when creating such organ functions on a chip. The talk concluded with a very proud research result: A home-grown tissue consisting of multiple cell types and networks which signaled a (yet) untranslatable message to the audience.

GTX Medical, a company developing implants to enable paraplegic people to walk again, organized the concluding talk. System engineer and part-time PdEng Edoardo Paoles showed the progress of a paraplegic relearning how to walk, while explaining the methods and challenges of the treatment that was developed. The results were impressive, and Edoardo concluded with the promise that more trials helping paraplegics would start soon.

The last activity of the symposium, the drink, was used to discuss the many views on brain or nerve stimulation with the speakers or with other students. While using the most popular brain stimulant in the world, new insights about the origin of thoughts were without doubt reached by many participants.

[1] Medical treatment strategy. The body temperature of a patient is elevated locally to a.o. stimulate the blood flow or activate the immune system.

[2] Research method in which cells are modified to be activated by light.

By Elles Raaijmakers

Symposium: Save the date

Stop what you’re doing and open up your agenda. Eir, gladly, announces their first symposium on “NeuroStimulating The Future” on the 24th of April 2019. Right now, we are contacting speakers from all over Europe to invite them to speak at this event. 

Surely, if you have any suggestions for speakers or interesting companies within this line of work, contact us at

Keep a close eye on our website for the list of confirmed speakers.



Review: Demcon Lunchlecture

Demcon came over for a lunch lecture, during which they gave a presentation about their company. First, a former Thor Board member told us what it’s like to work at Demcon. The company is a fast growing engineering company and the vast majority of employees has a technical background, which makes communicating with colleagues easy. Their main business is working on projects from other companies: solving their problems or realizing their ideas. This makes that there is a lot of diversity in the projects they work on. As an employee, you have some freedom to choose projects in the field of your liking.

Next was a more in-depth presentation of a medical project, outlining the different phases a project goes through and the challenges that come with it. For a hospital, they improved a common surgical tool, used to grasp tissue during surgeries. The problem was that surgeons often have no idea how much force they exert on tissue, and they don’t know whether they’re grasping pulsating tissue, such as an artery. Demcon designed an improved tool with force feedback that passes the requirements of the user and the strict medical regulations. This will likely cause a decrease in complications during surgeries.

It was a really interesting lunch lecture and we got a good insight in what working at Demcon feels like.

>> Tom van Nunen

Review – Kempenhaeghe

On 22ndof March, part of the Board of Eir went on a road trip to Kempenhaege. The morning was filled with pitches of startups within the medical sector and the lunch was combined with demonstrations of the devices presented in the pitches. One of the more interesting stories was of the owner of the Epihunter. The man armed with a personal story stood out to me the most. As one of his sons had been diagnosed with epilepsy and would have many attacks per day. As an engineering he wanted to help him, since no other device on the market was available thus far that would achieve his goal. A goal that was set when his son asked the question: “Papa, you are an engineer. Can you make a light that turns on when my brain turns off?”. He wanted to have a device which could indicate to other people when his son was having an epileptic episode. This would help out the kid, parents and teachers. The latter group, for example would get mad at children not realizing or knowing that the child was having an episode. The design is based on a headset which can be worn around the head and can be connected via Bluetooth to your phone. When the headset detects an epileptic seizure, a light turns on.

The following day, 23rdMarch, we went with a larger group to the symposium. We arrived with 10 people total around 8.30 at the Kempenhaege congress. Welcomed by a coffee and a tea, it was time for the first speakers. It’s always interesting to see the difference in jargon and style of presenting between engineers and clinical staff. The first speakers were mainly focused on how seizures influence people in different phases of their life and how modern technology can help them to better cope with the episodes. You can imagine that it must be hard for children with epilepsy transitioning to adulthood. As their body is changing together with their environment, it might be difficult to also manage the epilepsy.

Next up, was the lunch at Heeze Castle. By bus we got transferred to the castle where we had lunch. It was not only good, it was extensive and well organized as always! The afternoon was filled with an interesting session, again about epilepsy. One of the teachers from the TU/e was part of the chair, Rob Mestrom. Their task is to get the right speakers for their session and do the organization. During one of the talks, the bulb of the projector broke and the room had to do a 180 turn to switch to the other side of the room. This gave the talks a little dynamic. In the end it was time for drinks and a train ride home. Hope to be able to visit again next year!

>> Niels Vertegaal, treasurer of MA Eir

Review: Jülich Research Institute

It was Thursday the 17th of May. On this beautiful sunny day, 12 students of Master Association EIR gathered at the University to go on an Excursion. This time, it wasn’t in the Netherlands but in Germany! At 1pm, two small vans started heading towards Jülich Forschungszentrum, translated: Jülich Research Institute. After a sunny road trip of around 1:15h, we arrived at their huge campus having all an idea of going onto vacation driving through Germany with this great weather.

Once we collected our visitor passes we headed to the designated building where we were received by Irina Tihaa. Irina is doing her 3-year PhD at Jülich where she did research to the neural network by measuring the activity of neurons using 64 elektrodes of around 2 micrometer. Irina gave us a general presentation about the research institute. There are around 6000 employees working on a campus that has an area of 2.2km2(!!). Of these 6000 employees, around 2200 employees are scientists doing research in 10 different institutes. Every institute has between 3 to 11 subsections. The main three research areas are energy, information and sustainable bio economy. For us, as students from Master Association EIR, the information area is most interesting since they focus here on neuroscience, how information is processed in the brain and other biological cells and supercomputing and simulation science. Some key words in this area are bioelectronics, Human Brain Atlas and Modelling, Supercomputers, Signal Transduction, Resistive Storage, Spintronics and GMR.

Fun fact about the GMR division, Peter Grünberg, professor and researcher at the Jülich Research Institute received a Nobel Price for Physics in 2007 for his discovery of the Giant Magnetoresistance Effect (GMR). This effect is seen in ferro materials, where the electrical resistance decreases rapidly under the influence of a magnetic field.

After the general presentation, Henning Eggert, employee of the Human Resources department told us more about the career possibilities. For example, they have PhD positions available but also positions where you can do your master- or even bachelor thesis.

Next on the program was the visit to the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Nuclear Chemistry. This was lead by prof. dr. Johannes Ermert. He showed us the cyclotron that will be used to create radioactive isotopes that are attached to molecules which are subsequently injected to patients that are be detected by nuclear imaging techniques. For example, 99mTc-HMPAO (hexamethylpropylene amine oxime) is a gamma emitting compound that can be taken up by brain tissue in a manner proportional to brain blood flow and thus allowing to imaging the cerebral blood flow. The cyclotron that he showed is was a great and complex machine and prof. Ermert explained all the ins and outs of it. Because this cyclotron produces radio active materials, the outside world needs to be shielded of when operating. Therefore, the walls are around 2.5m thick which is immense! The door that shuts the entrance has the same size as you can see in the pictures.

When this tour was over, we started our walking tour over the campus while Irina told us a lot of things about the institutes we were walking by. They even had  greenhouses to study plants and a large balloon thingy to study the atmosphere. We stopped and entered the Jülich Supercomputing Centre where Irina showed us an area with a lot of super computers. In 2016 they received the award of having the world powerful supercomputer facility in the world. Nowadays, these computers can operate with 12 million billion operations per second (12-petaflop)!

Finally, Irina showed her office and told us more about her research she has been doing in her Institute of Complex Systems, focussing on bioelectronics. It is about measuring activity of in vitro neural networks with very small (micrometer) electrodes.

After the inspiring walk (of about 6km), the tour was over and the Eindhoven students returned back to their own country. Luckily, there were no traffic jams and we could still enjoy the BBQ that a committee of Thor had organised. 

>> Jasper Sleumer, Secretary of Master Association EIR