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Researchers at Oxford University have received a prestigious Wellcome Innovator Grant for investigating the role of the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN) – a brainstem nucleus – in human consciousness.

Human brain

The study is a collaboration between Neurosurgery (Associate Professor Alex Green, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences), Engineering (Professor Tim Denison, MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit), and Neurology (Dr Damian Jenkins, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences). It builds on pilot data from Dr Alceste Deli who, during her DPhil, has shown that PPN stimulation can alter sleep and arousal states.

The project will involve a 10-subject first-in-man clinical trial of PPN stimulation in patients with minimally conscious state (MCS) following brain injury (trauma or stroke) and will involve further development of a Deep Brain Stimulation system called the ‘DyNeuMo’ that has been developed in Oxford by Professor Denison and his team.

The research team aim to identify biomarkers that signify arousal state, within the brain and on EEG, and to develop ‘closed-loop’ stimulation patterns that optimise increased arousal and improve sleep. The device will also take into account circadian rhythms that are often disrupted in patients with MCS.

Read the full story on the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences website

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