SA technology may be well suited for medical instruments and treatment devices as well as electrophysiological interfaces used in the detection, acquisition and processing of band-limited analog waveforms produced by the body (e.g., brainwaves such as the EEG and MEG; neuromuscular potentials – EMG (electromyogram); cardiac rhythms – ECG).
Demonstrating reliable and consistent temporally advanced detection of electro-physiological waveforms may enable intervention with a pathological event (much) earlier than previously possible. SA detection could also be used to improve the performance of cardiac rhythm management, neurostimulation, neural computer interfaces, neurotherapy applications, radiation therapy and imaging. SAI’s initial R&D focus is the application of SAT to the detection of bioelectric signals for potential use in interventional medical applications.
In real-time applications, SA may offset signal processing delays associated with the extraction of relevant features thereby improving response times and overall system performance. Additionally, SA technology, using multiple spectrally tuned bands of single-stage SA circuits in parallel, has the potential to temporally shift overlapping signal elements (artifacts/noise) differentially to allow unmasking of bioelectric signal components of interest. The ability to separate anomalous or artifactual signal constituents based on their spectral content may facilitate earlier detection/intervention.
Some potential biomedical applications include real-time artifact detection and correction, neural pacing/seizure suppression, neurofeedback/ neurotherapy, brain-computer/neural interfaces, and electrocardiology. Additionally, SA technology could enhance the performance of physiologically gated diagnostic and therapeutic applications (such as medical imaging and radiotherapy) by temporally advancing the detection of certain trigger signals thereby improving target and timing accuracy.
Various sources of artifacts often lead to unwanted signal components that overlap or mask the electrophysiological signals of interest. Much of the current artifact detection/correction research focuses on reducing the computational load of present artifact-rejection algorithms in order to reduce their processing time. A number of these techniques operate in the frequency domain over narrow spectral bands.
- Seizure intervention
- Gated Imaging
- Cardiac Rythm Management
- Gated Radiation Therapy
In electrocardiology, current sensing technology typically acquires multiple consecutive heartbeats to detect anomalous cardiac signals and then generates a necessarily delayed response. However, anti-tachycardia therapies are most effective the earlier the delivery following onset. SA technology may provide a means for earlier detection of life-threatening cardiac activity thus allowing for more rapid intervention which increasing the probability of a positive outcome.
Further, cardiac signal components indicative of fibrillation (F-waves) or tachy-arrhythmia can be masked by the large amplitude ventricular QRST complex. Signal advance could be applied differentially to temporally shift the F-wave, to facilitate detection. The ability to rapidly distinguish life-threatening ventricular fibrillation from arrhythmias is critical for avoiding lethal consequences given the short time available to intervene.
The signal characteristics of interest and the application requirements determine the SA circuit design-performance criteria. For example, in the case of ECG used in implantable cardioverter/defibrillators (ICDs), the frequency range of interest is often less than 40 Hz and the shape of the detected signal is important for extracting specific signal features or characteristics. Thus, SA circuitry would be designed to provide a constant advance and gain through 40 Hz, and thereby minimize signal distortion.
In contrast, with ECG-gated imaging or radiation therapy, in which only the detection of the QRS peak is required, the waveshape is not nearly as important. Some signal distortion may be acceptable in order to increase the peak detection temporal advance.
The processing demands associated with neural interfaces for prosthetic and/or robotic applications still limit cybernetic performance, as long time delays are associated with control (feedback) loops. The steps involved in detecting, processing and interpreting neural signals result in overall response delays in “smart” prosthetic limbs that are much longer than biological response times. SA technology could be used to temporally advance signal detection and offset some of the processing delays.
There is ample empirical evidence that SA circuitry can be developed to impart nearly constant amplitude gain and advance for a wide variety of biomedical signals. Based on direct experimental results, the overall temporal advance can be increased by cascading multiple SA circuit stages, provided that signal distortion and any introduced artifacts are kept to a minimum through appropriate and judicious use of filtering and signal conditioning.