Prof. Li ZHANG
Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Li Zhang is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering (MAE) and a Professor by Courtesy in the Department of Surgery at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). He is also a director of the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) – CUHK Joint Laboratory of Robotics and Intelligent Systems. Dr. Zhang's main research interests include small-scale robotics and their applications for translational biomedicine. He has authored or co-authored over 300 publications, including Science Robotics, Nature Machine Intelligence, Science Advances, Nature Communications, as the corresponding author. His research work at ETH Zurich was indexed by the Guinness Book of World Records 2012 for the “Most Advanced Mini Robot for Medical Use.” Dr. Zhang is an Outstanding Fellow of the Faculty of Engineering at CUHK and elected as a Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC)
Chronic pain is a complex and disturbing problem that affects more than 20% of people in the US and Europe, damaging their quality of life and mental health. At least 1 in 3 people in Hong Kong suffers from chronic pain. However, only 13% of patients are completely satisfied with oral medications. What is worse, repeated administration of analgesics may cause drug tolerance or even dependency.
Thus, an alternative method has been introduced to control pain perception in the brain, namely Electromagnetic Neural Modulation (ENM). It modulates pain perception by electromagnetic stimulus either applied internally by implants or induced externally with a system over the scalp. A external ENM, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), is comparatively safer and cheaper due to its non-invasive nature. It is used as a therapeutic tool for neurological and psychiatric conditions, including major depression, stroke recovery, and pain relief. It can also be used as a research tool in neurosciences, particularly for diagnosing motor pathways.
Our project aims to develop a novel brain stimulation TMS device for improved pain relief. TMS modulates pain perception by introducing electromagnetic stimulus to related neural circuits. While repetitive TMS system has gained FDA clearance for pain relief and is supported by various reports, it faces several technical limitations that constrain their applications. In this project, a prototype system based on TMS with re-designed system architecture will be developed to introduce technical capabilities which enable improved resolution and penetration over existing clinical TMS systems. In addition, the prototype aims to provide stimulus programming capability such that researchers can devise new protocols to improve pain treatment efficacy and reduce patient discomfort by local modulation in cerebral cortex. Ultimately, these technological advancements are anticipated to be integrated into a versatile platform for clinical pain treatment development.