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News Archive 2001 - 2010

Collaborative Research Project May Find End to Chronic Pain

April 7, 2006

Researchers in the Colleges of Engineering and Science at The University of Texas at Arlington think they have a way of improving the management of chronic pain. They plan to develop an integrative system consisting of miniature wireless neuronal signal sensor and stimulator implants to provide accurate recording of neural activities and investigate the inhibitory effects of pain signals through neurostimulation.

Chronic pain is the most common reason individuals seek medical care, with millions of medical visits annually, costing the American public more than hundreds of billion dollars each year. The physical effects of pain include increased heart rate, blood pressure and glucose level, decreased digestive activity and blood flow. Chronic pain also often produces various psychosocial problems such as fear, depression, isolation and anxiety, which further interferes with sleep quality, work, self-esteem, marital and family relationships.

A three-year, $269,984 grant from the Integrative, Hybrid and Complex Systems program in the National Science Foundation will support investigative efforts by Electrical Engineering Associate Professor J-C. Chiao and Assistant Professor Sungyong Jung and Psychology Assistant Professor Yuan B. Peng. Their project, Integrative Sensor and Stimulator Implant System, involves integrating advances from four multidisciplinary areas of research: (1) flexible microelectromechanical system devices, (2) telemetry circuitry and wireless communication, (3) signal processing and (4) neuroscience and neurobiology. Using the integrative sensor and stimulator system as an enabling tool, scientific investigation will be carried out to establish the knowledge of neuronal signals, propagation models, inhibitory mechanisms and their relationship to external stimuli, parameter databases for bio-electrical models and optimization algorithms in pain management.

This cooperative project between the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Psychology integrates the research efforts with education and outreach objectives. Graduate and undergraduate students will work together in the same laboratories and, by hands-on experiences, be trained with integrated multidisciplinary knowledge.

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