Model-driven therapeutic treatment of neurological disorders: reshaping brain rhythms with neuromodulation

Interface Focus. 2011 Feb 6;1(1):61-74. doi: 10.1098/rsfs.2010.0509. Epub 2010 Nov 17.


Electric stimulation has been investigated for several decades to treat, with various degrees of success, a broad spectrum of neurological disorders. Historically, the development of these methods has been largely empirical but has led to a remarkably efficient, yet invasive treatment: deep brain stimulation (DBS). However, the efficiency of DBS is limited by our lack of understanding of the underlying physiological mechanisms and by the complex relationship existing between brain processing and behaviour. Biophysical modelling of brain activity, describing multi-scale spatio-temporal patterns of neuronal activity using a mathematical model and taking into account the physical properties of brain tissue, represents one way to fill this gap. In this review, we illustrate how biophysical modelling is beginning to emerge as a driving force orienting the development of innovative brain stimulation methods that may move DBS forward. We present examples of modelling works that have provided fruitful insights in regards to DBS underlying mechanisms, and others that also suggest potential improvements for this neurosurgical procedure. The reviewed literature emphasizes that biophysical modelling is a valuable tool to assist a rational development of electrical and/or magnetic brain stimulation methods tailored to both the disease and the patient's characteristics.

Keywords: biophysical modelling; brain rhythms; brain stimulation; electric and magnetic stimulation; neuromodulation.