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Pamela Schwartz | June 7, 2018
Helmet image for social_final.png

When I think of a helmet, the big and bulky protective gear used in American football immediately comes to mind. There are so many different styles of helmets worn by sports enthusiasts from horseback riding to rock climbing, each with their unique shape, material and purpose.


The word helmet comes from helm, a medieval word for protective combat headgear. Most early helmets, usually made from leather, had military uses. Today, helmets are designed to aid the skull in protecting our brains at work – a hard hat at a construction site - and at play – a bicycle helmet.


INSIGHTEC's Exablate Neuro is a completely unique helmet. It's a phased array, piezoceramic helmet with 1024 elements and a frequency of 650 KHz. What now?


The phased array is an array of 1,024 elements. Each of these transducer elements transmits ultrasound waves which are electronically steered to a specific target. The helmet shape means that it distributes energy over a large surface to reduce skull heating while creating an accurate focus on a target deep in the brain. The focal point is also controlled electronically in size (2-5mm) and location (<1mm accuracy). This means a very controlled ablation.


One of the cool factors of focused ultrasound technology is that each ultrasound wave passes safely through the skull and only where they converge is the tissue heated to ablative temperatures. The fact that they pass through the skull is itself quite the engineering feat.


The skull actually absorbs ultrasound energy, making it a challenge to deliver enough energy to the target deep in the brain. Exablate Neuro is the first and only device that has succeeded in doing this. The powerful ultrasound waves pass through the highly absorbing skull to deliver sufficient acoustic energy to heat the target to the desired temperatures.


Then another challenge presents itself as every person has a different skull. The helmet features Intelligent algorithms that perform acoustic simulation, based on CT scans, to determine the phase corrections for individual skull shape and density.


This helmet is not just a helmet – the outside does not even hint at the innovative technology contained within or the impact it can have. Seeing a person get out of the helmet and have a steady hand that hours before could not hold a cup of water without spilling it is simply inspiring.


This is what technology should be about – changing people's lives for the better.

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