NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine is especially well-known for our expertise in treating patients who do not respond well to epilepsy medication and require another form of therapy. Our physicians pioneered vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), and our center has the most experience in the mid-Atlantic region in the use of this treatment. With this approach, a small pacemaker-like device implanted under the skin in the chest sends small electrical impulses to the vagus nerve to reduce the number and severity of seizures.
Current and Future Research Directions
Through the Brain and Nerve Stimulation Program, our investigators have taken the lessons learned from their experience with VNS to assess other "neuromodulation" approaches with the potential to help patients with a variety of neurological disorders. Some approaches are now available for patients, and research looks to improve outcomes; other approaches are being assessed in clinical trials. Neuromodulation methods that are being actively pursued include:
Deep brain stimulation, in which neurosurgeons implant a device that acts like a pacemaker for the brain, is approved for the treatment of Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders and has shown promise in clinical studies for helping some patients with epilepsy. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell researchers are also studying deep brain stimulation in the central thalamus as a means of treating people in a light vegetative state.
Evaluation of a promising pacemaker-like device (called the NeuroPace RNS System) implanted inside the skull to send a jolt of electricity to short-circuit an oncoming seizure.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation — which involves the administration of a small magnetic field to certain parts of the brain by passing a device over that part of the head — is used to treat depression and is also being studied in patients with tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and those recovering from a stroke. This work is being done in collaboration with the Burke Rehabilitation Center.
Our investigators are planning to evaluate external trigeminal nerve stimulation as a potential treatment for epilepsy. Stimulation of the trigeminal nerve and its related structures has been shown to inhibit seizures. This system has already been approved in Europe and Canada for the treatment of epilepsy and depression.
NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine's expertise, large patient population, and vigorous scientific research program make it an excellent institution for the evaluation of innovative neuromodulation approaches.