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Neurotwin, digital twin brain technology to treat neurological diseases

Neurotwin, digital twin brain technology to treat neurological diseases

A European Union Horizon 2020 EIC Pathfinder project coordinated by Catalan SME Neuroelectrics Barcelona involving Gustavo Deco, ICREA research professor at the DTIC, and Jordi García Ojalvo, full professor of Systems Biology at the DCEXS.

16.02.2021

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The EIC Pathfinder promotes collaborative and interdisciplinary research and innovation on science-inspired and radically new future technologies. Neurotwin is a new European Union Horizon 2020 EIC Pathfinder project that will build a computational framework to represent the mechanisms of interaction of electric fields with personalized human brain networks. It will assimilate neuroimaging data to design personalized optimization strategies to treat Alzheimer’s disease

The project will develop hybrid brain models to represent the effects of non-invasive electrical brain stimulation of alterations that are characteristic to some brain disorders

The project will run for 48 months and began in January 2021. It concentrates on digital-twin technology for neuroscience. A digital twin is the generation or collection of digital data representing a physical object. Neurotwin is coordinated by Catalan SME Neuroelectrics Barcelona and involves two UPF research groups: Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition (CBC) and ICREA research professor at the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC), and Jordi García Ojalvo, director of the Dynamical Systems Biology Laboratory at the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS).

“We plan to investigate how stimulations of the in silico model could be used to predict and design electromagnetic and/or pharmacological therapeutic interventions”

Gustavo Deco’s laboratory will focus on the modelling of the entire brain, i.e., in order to extract and understand the mechanisms underlying the global dynamics associated with different brain states (such as resting states of the disease and healthy subjects). “In particular, we will study quantitative ways to define brain states. We plan to investigate how stimulations of the in silico model could be used to predict and design electromagnetic and/or pharmacological therapeutic interventions”, Deco asserts. Garcia-Ojalvo’s lab will develop minimal dynamic models of whole-brain activity to identify the principles underlying the amplification of electromagnetic disturbances in brain networks that operate near criticality.

Garcia-Ojalvo’s lab will develop minimal dynamic models of whole-brain activity to identify the principles underlying the amplification of electromagnetic disturbances in brain networks that operate near criticality

The knowledge gained from these approaches will be validated by more realistic neural mass models developed by Neuroelectrics. The project will develop hybrid brain models able to represent the effects of non-invasive electrical brain stimulation appropriate in the context of large-scale connectivity alterations and oscillatory deficits that are characteristic to some brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The most advanced physical and physiological modelling techniques

Neurotwin technology will benefit from the most advanced physical and physiological modelling techniques that enable the project to improve the prediction of the effects of neuromodulation and design and test optimized neuromodulation protocols. “We are here because we want to revolutionize neuropsychiatry and provide model-driven solutions to all patients in need. Our approach is science-based and computational: we believe now is the right time to attack the problem of personalized, model-driven neuromodulation  computationally, bringing together the physical and physiological aspects of the therapy. And while our current focus is on epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease, other disorders can be approached computationally, the project coordinators add.

This new approach may provide a breakthrough in personalized therapy for neurodegenerative disorders: “The realization of the Neurotwin program will have a significant scientific impact because it requires a realistic representation of brain dynamics at several scales, states, and conditions. Our ultimate ambition is to deliver disruptive therapeutic solutions through a model-driven, individualized, neuromodulation paradigm”, the researchers conclude.

The project involves experts from several disciplines: nonlinear dynamics, network theory, biophysics, engineering, basic and computational neuroscience, clinical research, ethics and philosophy. The coordinating institution is a high-tech SME, Neuroelectrics Barcelona. The project partners are Pompeu Fabra University and Pablo de Olavide University in Spain; Uppsala University (Sweden); Forschungsgesellschaft für Arbeitsphysiologie und Arbeitsschutz (Germany); Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (USA), and Fundazione Santa Lucia (Italy).

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