Biomedical Computer Science and Mechatronics

COMBINE: COmbined stimulation Modelling of the Bionic INner Ear

Duration: 2022 - 2025

Principal Investigator (UMIT): Univ.-Prof. Dr. Daniel Baumgarten

Project Partner: MED-EL GmbH (Innsbruck, Austria)

Associated Project Partner:
Maastricht University Medical Center+ (MUMC+) (Maastricht, Netherlands)

Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft (FFG) - project number: FO999895336

Computer models of the inner ear
considering realistic anatomies and neural structures offer the possibility to evaluate and optimize novel stimulation strategies of Cochlear Implants (CIs) and Vestibular Implants (VIs) prior to their application in patients. These models have already been used to analyse targeted activation of the cochlear nerve as well as vestibular nerve branches. Through consideration of realistic computermodels, reproducible and objective evaluations based on quantitative data can be performed, which represents the basis for potential improvements of the stimulation setup.

Current modelling approaches mainly consider only one specific domain, i.e., either the cochlear or vestibular organ, during the simulation and analysis of potential stimulation strategies. The modelling of combined cochlear and vestibular stimulation devices and their effects on both organs has not been satisfactorily investigated so far. Therefore, the overall aim of this project is to obtain a basic and advanced understanding of the effects and interplay during the combined stimulation of the vestibular and cochlear systems responsible for characteristic signal shapes in neural responses, unintended crosstalk but also potentially improved stimulation outcome by facilitating targeted neural activation for both intact and degenerated nerves. For this purpose, a realistic model for combined CVI stimulation considering the effects on both organs and their interactions will be developed. Based on the simulations using this model and based on experimental/clinical data, the effects of various stimulation and evaluation strategies should be investigated, enabling improved targeted stimulation and potentially also novel diagnostic evaluation possibilities of recorded eCAPs, eABRs and eVBRs. This combined stimulation poses challenging questions that will be addressed during the proposed project, and the methods developed during this project will provide valuable tools to improve the overall outcome of combined cochlear and vestibular stimulation. Therewith, we will establish a scientific basis/platform that will assist MED-EL in their further development of the respective devices.