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Neurostimulation, the practice of stimulating nerves with a small electric current, is not a word most people outside of academia would recognize. According to a new report  however, this may be set to change by the end of the decade. By 2018 the industry is predicted to be worth about 6.9 billion US$ (4.27 billion GBP).

Therapeutic devices such as deep brain stimulators (DBS), spinal cord stimulators (SCS), and others have been shown to be effective in treating a wide array of health issues. DBS has been used to treat disorders such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and major depression to name only a few. SCS is used for treating otherwise intractable chronic nerve pain without the side effects of traditional medication, such as drug dependence and tolerance.

Two of the most important factors currently driving neurostimulation market growth are increasing popular interest and technological development. Both potential patients and physicians were often unaware of neurostimulation treatments in the past, and are increasingly turning to them as new medical products and procedures are approved. Major medical technology companies like Medtronic, Boston Scientific, and St. Jude Medical are developing new neurostimulation devices to release within the next few years.

Development of technology supporting the neurostimulation market could have much wider consequences than better treatment options for patients, though. Procedures developed to implant DBS electrodes in the brain could be applied to a new generation of minimally invasive brain-computer interfaces, or eventually more advanced kinds of neuroprosthetics to repair or even enhance brain function.

By Andrew Mathau