Earpiece could make post-stroke surgery a thing of the past

Zurich – Two scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have developed an earpiece to help speed up the recovery from a stroke. The technology stimulates the brain and could prevent the need for surgery. The solution is set to be launched on the market by a dedicated spin-off.

Two researchers from the Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), Paulius Viskaitis and Dane Donegan, have developed smart earpieces for the rehab of stroke patients. The innovative system stimulates the brain to help restore function to damaged areas and, in this way, support the relearning of physical movements faster and more effectively, further details of which can be found in a press release.

Accordingly, the earpiece could potentially make operations under general anesthetic a thing of the past. So far, surgical interventions, which are only possible a year after a stroke, have been necessary to restore damaged areas of the brain by implanting a sensor in stroke patients. In addition, therapists must operate the stimulator manually, which is expensive and time-consuming.

The earplugs developed by ETH Zurich, on the other hand, are connected to a motion sensor that the two researchers developed using their own software. Similar to a smartwatch, patients can attach it where their motor skills are limited, for example on their arm. The sensor analyzes the movements of the affected body part in real time and informs the earpiece when a movement is being performed correctly. “This triggers stimulation of the vagus nerve and the brain learns to recall the correct sequence of movements faster and more effectively”, the press release explains.

In the summer, the two researchers intend to spin-off their own company and carry out tests on healthy people. Thereafter, they are planning to hold an initial clinical trial before launching their system.