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Design and Testing of an Implantable Thermoelectric Device for Focal Brain Cooling
Keywords: thermoelectric brain cooling, implantable medical device, epilepsy
Epilepsy affects up to 1% of the worlds population, and an estimated 30% of the cases are drug-resistant. Patients with severe seizures who are not candidates for surgical treatment are left with very few options. One approach is an implantable device that would detect and respond with some form of intervention to stop a seizure. While implantable devices have been developed that employ electrical stimulation to modulate brain function, there are challenges related to their operation. It is difficult to direct the path of electrical stimulation, so the modulation of brain function is not well focused. In addition, direct electrical stimulation also carries the risk of stimulation induced seizures. For these reasons, an alternative approach to electrical stimulation is being developed that involves directed cooling of the brain. Focal cooling is a promising new approach which has been shown to modulate brain function and terminate seizure activity. In collaboration with Yale University, Laird Corporation and RTI International have developed a thermoelectric (TE) neuro-stimulator for focal cooling of the human brain. The initial prototype device consists of a TE active cooling module with an integrated cold finger and heat rejection system that was designed be used in a surgical setting to provide direct controlled cooling of the brain. The active cooling system developed for this application includes a thin-film thermoelectric device (3.7 x 3.7 x 0.7mm) that is sandwiched between a miniature liquid-cooled heat exchanger and a conductive cold-finger. The development of the focal brain cooling system includes thermal finite element modeling, prototype design and fabrication, and an in-vivo human trial. The details of the development, integration, and testing of this active cooling system will be presented along with design considerations for a brain implantable thermoelectric array.
David Stokes,
RTI International
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
United States

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