Iowa State University technology is helping veterans recover from traumatic brain injuries and offers hope for treating victims of early-stage Parkinson’s disease and stroke.

David Jiles, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State, leads a team of scientists focusing on treating deep brain disorders with electromagnetic stimulation. Until now, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) devices were only effective in stimulating the outermost regions of the brain.

“We tried many different configurations and eventually came up with what we call the halo coil. That enables you to get four or five times as much (magnetic) field deep inside the brain than was possible before. So now we can do deep brain stimulation,” Jiles said.

The new technology is currently being used by doctors at the Army’s Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to treat soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder associated with deep brain injury. One of Jiles’ Iowa State students is working at Walter Reed to assist doctors administering the treatments.

“The reports coming back indicate that the people who have been subjected to these traumatic brain injuries and maybe post-traumatic stress disorder seem to be doing a lot better with the treatment than they were before,” Jiles added.

Jiles said the technology also shows promise in treating other deep brain disorders. Animal tests at Iowa State have found electromagnetic stimulation can slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease by stimulating the brain to produce the chemical dopamine. Loss of dopamine is believed to be the primary cause of Parkinson’s. He also said the technology may speed the recovery of stroke victims.

“You can help other parts of the brain relearn or learn functions that the damaged part of the brain were carrying out. You can help that with this stimulation process,” he said. “The best thing about this technique is it’s noninvasive.”