Precisely mapping and stimulating the brain

Helsinki 30 June 2006Accurately mapping the functioning of the human brain was previously deemed impossible. However, a young Finnish company, Nexstim, that is pioneering the supply of precise brain stimulation systems is inspiring a paradigm shift. Nexstim develops and manufactures a patented, non-invasive brain scanning and stimulation system called navigated brain stimulation (NBS). NBS involves using short magnetic field pulses to stimulate precisely defined points in the cerebral cortex and then measure how a specific site or the whole cortex reacts with a high definition electro-encephalogram. Impaired responses caused by disease or injury can then be detected by the equipment.

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The company believes that NBS is the only equipment that can accurately show the location of stimulation within the brain. Consequently, a user can determine precisely the dose and location of each stimulus required for each patient. In the near future, NBS is expected to become a major diagnostic and therapeutic tool in hospitals.

Jukka-Pekka Särkkä, Nexstim's Managing Director, elaborated: "Typical applications for the equipment include the planning and follow-up of the rehabilitation of diseases involving the brain, in particular, stroke and traumas; the rapid location of motor cortex areas to be avoided in brain surgery; and the testing of psychiatric diagnostic and therapeutic applications."

Nexstim was founded by Risto Ilmoniemi, Markku Lahdenpää, and Pekka Puolakka in 2000 to commercialise inventions developed during research projects at the BioMag Laboratory in Helsinki University Central Hospital. By the end of 2005, the company had attracted over 2,8 million euro of investment and its principal shareholders include the Finnish National Fund for Research and Development (SITRA), capital investors and company staff. Today the company employs 20 people based in Helsinki.

The company's product portfolio is covered by ten international patents and patent applications and includes navigation and dose definition tools for brain stimulation - eXimia NBS; a transcranial magnetic stimulator for accurate and focused magnetic pulses - eXimia TMS; and an electro-encephalograph for monitoring the brain functions during magnetic stimulation - eXimia EEG.

Nexstim's customers include over 20 hospitals and brain research centres in Europe, Japan and the United States. Company turnover in 2004 amounted to nearly 2 million euro and is expected to grow considerably. Currently, the global market for the research, diagnosis and rehabilitation of brain-related diseases is estimated to be worth 500 million euro a year and expanding.

Earlier this year, Nexstim was announced a 2006 winner of the IST Prize. "I regard the prize as a notable acknowledgement for internationally recognised neurology research and Finnish product development in the field", concluded Jukka-Pekka Särkkä.

For more information you can contact Jukka-Pekka Särkkä, Managing Director, Nexstim Ltd., Elimäenkatu 9B, FI-00510 Helsinki, Finland, Tel: +358-9-27271710, Fax: +358-9-27271717.

This article has been reprinted from the IST Results Web site.


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