The central nervous system (CNS) is the initiating and regulating organ in the human body. Many feedback loops are present, with sensors and actuators, to control the behavior in many organs, e.g. in the heart, the musculoskeletal system, blood pressure, bladder, and skin. The combination of controller, actuator, plant (system to be controlled) and sensor form a closed-loop system, in which the dynamic behavior can be quite unpredictable from the dynamic behavior of the individual components. Still, only very few studies take the closed-loop character of the CNS into account when recording signals and assessing the function of subsystems of the CNS.
The goal of the NeuroSIPE programme (System Identification and Parameter Estimation of Neurophysiological Systems) is to improve and develop new diagnostic tools for neurological disorders, through the use of closed-loop system identification techniques for the peripheral and central nervous system.
The challenge in NeuroSIPE is to assess the functioning of an intact feedback system in vivo, since cause and effect are intermingled. A closed-loop system identification approach is essential to assess the separate feedback loops of the CNS in an intact functional system, and to quantify the parameters of the feedback loop.
The primary focus of NeuroSIPE will be on, but not limited to, four application domains, i.e. the neuromuscular system, the autonomous cardiovascular system, the thermoregulation system and the pain regulating system. The socio-economic impact of neurological disorders on society is huge, given the high incidence and prevalence. NeuroSIPE is unique in the sense that it focuses on a system’s approach and not on a specific neurological disease or subsystem. This approach used across the NeuroSIPE programme will bring together technical and medical specialists from different fields and application domains, which will enhance cross-fertilization required for the necessary breakthroughs in neurophysiological assessment.
Companies typically involved in the NeuroSIPE programme have a background in mechatronics, electronics, software development, mechanics, etc. Participating companies may be able to commercialize the equipment, protocols and software interfaces as developed in NeuroSIPE for rehabilitation centers and neurological units in order to quantify the disease progress and the effect of medication, and eventually to diagnose patients with neurological disorders. Another user group are the clinical researchers e.g. in pharmaceutical studies, who can use more accurate and objective data to decrease the cohort size in clinical trials.
The ambition of the NeuroSIPE programme in short is expressed as:
- Development of key technology that meets the demands for advanced closed-loop system identification and parameter estimation applicable in the neurophysiological domain.
- Methodological development of perturbation equipment and recording equipment useful for system identification methods applied to the neurophysiological domain.
- Establishing a research community in the Netherlands that enables the dissemination and exchange of design methods, technology and prototypes of NeuroSIPE.
- The initiation of a national center of excellence on neurophysiological recording methods that will grow to one of the world leading centers.