EM Care And Cure Colloquium

On the 20th of June, also a very hot day in this heatwave week, the EM colloquium took place. A colloquium is a small lecture for a capacity group (in this case for the electromagnetics group) focused on a specific subject. The subject of this EM colloquium was neuromodulation. The two speakers were ir. Elles Raaijmakers and Prof. dr. Paul Boon. Paul is a doctor working as a professor at Ghent University and at Kempenhaeghe. Elles is a PhD student doing research in the field of neuroengineering focused on electromagnetics.

Neuromodulation is technology that acts directly on the nerves in our bodies. It is the alteration- or modulation of nerve activity by delivering electrical or pharmaceutical agents directly to a target area. This technology is growing rapidly and therefor this colloquium gives a great view on the nowadays standards.

Elles started by giving a presentation with the subject: “Can we hack our brains using EM fields”, a very appealing subjects since we’ve all heard about Frankenstein and robotic humans. This presentation was about a study to the direct influence of EM stimulation on single neurons. Elles explained how neurons can be stimulated using specific electric pulses and how the electrical activity of a neuron can be measured. It is still a challenging task to know the exact activity of a neuron because in order to know this, you have to put 500 probes in this 5 micrometer cell body. The conclusion is that a black box model is made for this neuron and there is, for now, no way to measure exactly how the activity of a neuron is. It is, however, possible to modulate activity of the neuron is some kind of way. A bright (hackable) future is ahead!

The next speaker was prof. dr. Paul Boon. His presentation was called ‘Neuromodulation for brain disorders, with a focus on epilepsy’. First, some facts and figures were presented with how many people in the world have neurological diseases. Did you know that this is more than 2x the number of people that have cancer? Next, different kind of neuromodulation systems were discussed. For example, the deep brain stimulation (DBS) technique can be used to suppress the tremor in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Two electrodes are implanted in the brain that stimulate a focal spot that makes sure the patient stops shaking. This technique is sometimes used in epilepsy patients as well. Next, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is used to induce currents in the brain to change its behavior using magnetic fields induced by a coil.

The two presentations were very interesting and inspiring and we now know a lot more about the neurostimulation and applications of it. We’re looking forward to such another colloquium.

Review: Symposium Robots & Doctors Join Hands

We started with a presentation about systems for minimal invasive interventions by Jenny Dankelman. As the head of the MISIT group in delft she told us about the need for simple instruments which can be used in surgery. Using mechanical interaction, needles and equipment can become even smaller, while staying strong and flexible.

There was a break after the presentation about minimal invasive interventions, during this break coffee and cake were served, the cake apparently cost €1,- a piece, while it was not that fancy. A small complaint that the organization of the symposium made about the caterer. Twenty minutes later a presentation from ir. Maarten Beelen from PrecEyes started. Maarten told about their machine made for assisting doctors in eye surgery. The robot copies the motion of the doctor, however it removes certain movements, such as vibrations, so that the robot operates even more precise. The machine was set to copy the motion in different scales for precision. The machine could imitate the movements of a doctor by 1:100 for example. This enables surgeons to do procedures that were impossible to do before, as earlier they would pierce through tissue because of the precision issue.

The next speaker was drs. Tom van Mulken, who is a plastic surgeon. He told about using robotic aid to help reconnecting the veins after a plastic incision. He told that a plastic surgeon operates with big regions of the human body, for example when someone is burned, but also in very tiny regions for example a nose correction. Whereas the last one obviously needs the highest precision.

At 11:50 the lunch break began. A nice buffet with sandwiches and soup was served. There were smoothies and they even had Fristi. During the lunch, some companies represented by the speakers were present with a stand so students were able to speak to them and to ask some questions.

For the next speaker, the room was getting crowded as this was also an USE presentation. The presentation was given by dr. ir. Benno Lansdorp who works as an engineer at Demcon medical robotics. Demcon made a robotic aid to insert needles into the human body which helps doctors reach the disease spot in one go. This positioning system is of use in minimal invasive image guided surgery. Benno said one very important thing: “As an engineer we should experience surgery as a surgeon by simply attend one. That is why Eir is trying to organize an excursion for next year.

Prof. dr. ir. Stefano Stramigioli showed a needling inserting system as well. He works for Boston Dynamics. This system was guided by an MRI scanner and searched for the right position so that the needle would be inserted to the right region of 5x5x5 mm of precision in the human body with 5 degrees of freedom. The challenge was to design a robotic arm that was able to be placed in the MRI as there could not be parts who were magnetic. They succeeded and this system is already integrated in some hospitals, though doctors still need to insert te needle themselves. Stefano also told about an automatic endoscope steering mechanism.

The next subject was about SAM – a security robot used for people with cognitive defects. Prof. dr. ir. Pieter Jonkers from TU Delft showed us LEA. This was a rollator with smart functions. It could help remind the user of making diner, set an alarm to wake up the user or even be called upon to start dancing. The robot, which had no human image, could help with exercising and detect if a person was fallen. When this happened, LEA would immediately call emergency services. LEA was also designed to let the user stay in contact with relatives and friends by randomly skype calling a person who was not contacted in a while. LEA does not accept a person walking with ‘her’ without a straight back. Most of the elderly are likely to begin walking without a straight back because they lean too much on the rollator. By breaking when this happens, LEA makes sure the users come closer and straighten their back.

The last presentation showed how people could rehabilitate by using exoskeletons. Prof. dr. ir. Herman van der Kooij, working at TU Twente and Delft, told us how exoskeletons become a bigger part in rehabilitations. Exoskeletons are fusing more and more with the human body. He showed us how nerves nowadays could be coupled to bionic arms and legs. People are able to walk again with an implant. Are people becoming cyborgs nowadays? Maybe, but Herman showed us one thing. Humans will not necessarily become a stronger species by replacing limbs with robotic aids.

Review: LasEirQuest

At 14:00 we went to LasEirQuest with a group of 6 students. Since the group was rather small (too bad!) we decided to do 2 free for all games. We cycled to Stratum to go to the game hall. The first thing to do was choosing a cool nickname. We were going hero style: IronMan, SpiderMan, Robs, Hulk, Thor and BatMan. After getting some instructions (do not run and no physical contact!), we started our first game. Since some people played LasEirQuest for the first time, they still needed to get acquainted with the game hall.

After 20 minutes the game stopped and we went to the bar to look at the scores. SpiderMan won the first round! We were really tired and decided to rest for a minute to gain some energy for the second round.

After some time we went back to the gaming area. The second round began. Everybody started running and shooting and it was just like playing COD or Battlefield. Depending on which you like better. When running and bumping into each other we started some close combat (striking the gun of your component to the ground and shoot him (or her) in the back). One of us even got hurt by bumping into a radiator, so real blood flowed.

Everyone’s score had improved the second time. We had a lot of fun this afternoon with 2 games of LasEirQuest in just 1,5 hours. Arrived back at Het Walhalla we got a free beer (AAA) from the Board (as we deserved).

If you guess the right order of scores by nickname you can win a free beer in Het Walhalla!!! (submissions to board@ma-eir.nl until June 2nd. Participants of the activity excluded.)

Do you want to go EirSoft?

Do you want some excitement after your exams? Are you bored of paintballing all the time? Like this post and let us know you want to go EirSoft. If there is enough interest, we are going to try to organise this. For now, we wish everybody a lot of success with their exams these coming two weeks!

Review: Update @Kempenhaeghe

With a total of 10 students we attended this congress on a sunny Friday in March. We gathered at Eindhoven station where we took the train to Heeze followed by a bus to Kempenhaeghe. After our registration we started the day with a session about neurocognition, where the main topic was ‘brain and learning’. We kicked off with an interesting lecture about neuroplasticity in clinical practice. Here we saw some examples of children suffering from a physical disability due to severe brain damage, where some of the disability was recovered due to the fact that healthy brain cells took over the task of damaged brain cells. One example was a baby of which the right hemisphere was totally damaged, so therefore it could not move the left part of its body. But in a few months it was already capable of lifting the arm slightly and after a year, the arm and leg could be moved again. However, it was only possible to mimic movements of the right part of the body, but still an impressive improvement.

This session continued with lectures about the memory on neuronal level and whether DCD (Developmental Coordination Disorder) was a development disorder or a learning disorder. Concluding there were some talks about dyslexia and dyscalculia, and the fact that genetics and the environment have more influence on these disorders than expected. Around 12.30 it was time for lunch, which was organized at Heeze castle. Here some delicious dishes were prepared for us, which we could eat in the lovely sun while enjoying the nice scenery of the castle.

Two hours later we were back at Kempenhaeghe for the afternoon session about ‘clinical demand versus technological offer’. As few technicians amongst a lot of clinicians at this congress, this was a very interesting topic. Also the chairs of this session were two professors of our own department, Johan Arends and Rob Mestrom. Here we started with a lecture about the differences between technicians and clinicians. It was fun to see that these differences are not only about knowledge, but also about language and approaches to solve problems. Whereas technicians make models and simplify everything, it is necessary for clinicians to have a lot of specific knowledge and are able to tackle patient specific problems. The main point is that we should be aware of these differences and that it is worth to invest in each others terminology.

After that, there was some talk about what technology was needed for epilepsy surgery and where there were improvements to make. The session ended with a talk about optogenetics/chemogenetics, which could in the future be a treatment of epilepsy with the use of light or receptor specific drugs, and a talk about seizure detection and SUDEP prevention. After that some stayed at Kempenhaeghe for a concluding drink, but the majority had digested enough information for the day and went back to the train station. Looking back it was really a nice and interesting day, and I am sure that we will attend the congress next year as well!

Slideshow: An impression of ‘Update @Kempenhaeghe’