For most of us, it's impossible to fully comprehend the consequences of a disease such as Parkinson's or Essential Tremor. Many sufferers shake constantly; they can't eat, drink, or lead normal lives without the help of caretakers. Thanks to Lynn Otten, however, Parkinson's sufferers now have a potent weapon in the fight against the disease. An engineer in Medtronic Inc.'s Neurological Division, Otten worked with three others from the company to develop the Activa Tremor Control system. It is the first FDA-approved electrical stimulation device for long-term implant in the brain. Starting on it as a spare-time project, Otten spearheaded the five-year development effort, which culminated when dramatic test results began pouring in from clinical trails. A biomedical engineer who holds numerous patents, Otten took the device through development, testing, validation, and, ultimately, to manufacturing. The device, which almost completely stops the tremors, is now available to thousands of Parkinson's sufferers who could not otherwise lead normal lives.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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