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Targeting Brain Functions

October 1, 2015

ECE Professor Dana Brooks awarded a $250K NSF grant as part of a collaborative research effort to determine the "Optimization of Human Cortical Stimulation".

Abstract Source: NSF

Electrical stimulation of the surface of the brain is used to map functions, such as hand movement. This stimulation is vital for both brain research and patient care. Better methods are needed to precisely direct the electrical current on the brain surface. Precise stimulation will help research in restoring damage after neurological injury. Stimulation and recording from the brain surface have also been used to study memory and attention processes. Research in the development of neuro-prosthetics and the study of how the brain interacts with brain-controlled devices may also benefit from more precise stimulation. This project uses advanced computer modeling to determine better ways of stimulating the brain. One can predict where the stimulation will go based on these models. It will be tested whether using these models can precisely steer the stimulation to target specific brain functions.

This US-German collaborative project combines expertise from the University of Washington (PI: J. Ojemann, Neurosurgery), Northeastern University (D. Brooks, Electrical Engineering), the University of Utah (R. McLeod, Center for Integrative Biomedical Computing) and, in Germany, the University of Freiburg (T. Ball, Computational Neuroscience and Neurotechnology). The optimization protocols developed at Northwestern and Utah can predict the distribution of current delivery, which will be validated in a sheep model and subsequently used to predict current delivery in human data. For instance, complex geometries of brain surface (electrocorticography) electrodes may give varying patterns of current across the brain. By using simultaneous stimulation and recording data from the cortical surface (in either sheep or human brain in vivo), the model and optimization algorithms can be assessed. Successful methods for "current steering" would be applicable across a broad range of research and patient care applications in neuroscience.

A companion project is being funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).