High resolution magnetic coil arrays for noninvasive treatments of neurological disorders

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a therapy that uses a magnetic field to activate the brain. An electromagnetic coil is held against the head and short electromagnetic pulses are administered through the coil. The pulses are able to stimulate nerve cells in targeted brain regions and has been tested as a treatment tool for various neurological and psychiatric disorders including migraines, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and Parkinson's disease. Dr. Dan Sievenpiper, of University of California, San Diego, is developing a new high-resolution magnetic coil array that will allow researchers to generate signals inside the human brain that are currently impossible with existing systems. Dr. Sievenpiper's noninvasive system will be used for treating depression and other neurological disorders in ways that are currently impossible with existing transcranial magnetic stimulation systems, or for patients who have no other treatment options. It will also provide feedback for prosthetics and other neurological interfaces.

Rather than the trial and error approach that TMS currently makes use of, with this new electronically scannable, high-resolution system, researchers can develop new research approaches like scanning the brain, apply different treatments at the same time, and electronically sweep through different wave forms until they find the right one. Dr. Sievenpiper and his team have already demonstrated success with a simple version of the magnetic coil array and have therefore shown that they can create a scannable magnetic field on a flat plane with low power. By scaling up, he and his collaborator, Dr. David Feiffel, will be able to make something that is more formable with more coils and more power in each one which would allow for an interface that would be developed by companies and provide incredible treatments!

Current research includes:

  • First Demonstration: Dr. Sievenpiper received initial seed funding for his work from the Center for Brain Activity Mapping at UCSD. He and his collaborators successfully developed a simple coil array for their first demonstration. 

  • Scaling Up: Dr. Sievenpiper and his collaborator, Dr. Feiffel, a professor at the Psychiatry Department at UCSD, are now working to scale up the coil array in power and in size in addition to making it conformal. They will then set up simple experiments with the hopes of clinical trials in the next two years.


Dr.  Dan Sievenpiper joined the University of California, San Diego faculty in 2010. He received his B.S. in 1994 and his Ph.D. in 1999 from University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied photonic crystals and periodic structures, and invented the high impedance electromagnetic surface. After graduation, Dr. Sievenpiper joined HRL (the former Hughes Research Laboratories) in Malibu, California. During the following 11 years, he developed new electromagnetic structures, with an emphasis on small, conformal, tunable, and steerable antennas. Dr. Sievenpiper held a variety of technical positions at HRL, including serving as the director of the Applied Electromagnetics Laboratory. At University of California, San Diego, his research is focused on artificial media, and the integration of active electronics with electromagnetic structures and antennas to enable new capabilities. In 2008, Sievenpiper was awarded the URSI Issac Koga Gold Medal. In 2009, he was named as a Fellow of the IEEE. Since 2010, he has served as an associate editor of IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters. He is also currently the chair of the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Administrative Committee on New Technology Directions. Dr. Sievenpiper has more than 70 issued patents and more than 70 technical publications.

Dr. Sievenpiper began research because he wanted to create new things that are useful to our country and to humanity. He is intrigued by electromagnetics and believes a good future application in this area is to control interaction with the human body in a noninvasive manner. In his free time, Dr. Sievenpiper enjoys spending time with his son. They enjoy staying busy and have fun doing many activities including hiking and playing Minecraft. 

Website: http://web.eng.ucsd.edu/ece/groups/electromagnetics/index.html



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URSI Issac Koga Gold Medal, 2008

Fellow of the IEEE, 2009

Associate editor of IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, 2010

Chair of the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Administrative Committee on New Technology Directions