Neuro Modulation and Physiology Laboratory

Overview

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Overview

In the Neuro Modulation and Physiology Laboratory, we use non-invasive neuroimaging to study the relationship between brain function/physiology and behavior in both basic and applied settings. Our research specialties are described below. We also specialize in advanced computation to accelerate processing stages. This is achieved in our laboratory using a Rocks distribution cluster supporting 256 simultaneous threads.

Real-Time Functional MRI Neurofeedback Training

We execute research with a strong focus on the use of cutting-edge real-time functional brain imaging and neurofeedback to enable closed-loop endogenous neuromodulation. This technique is theorized to enhance targeted network connectivity and plasticity. We have developed customized software integrated with powerful, professional software tools to acquire and process functional MRI data in real-time. This processed data can then be displayed to participants inside the MRI in real-time. Participants use the provided information to develop self-directed mental exercises that alter localized brain activity.

A Protocol for the Administration of Real-Time fMRI Neurofeedback Training

Improving Cognition

We first demonstrated our real-time functional MRI neurofeedback training paradigm using a Siemens 1.5T. In this study, funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory, we investigated the use of real-time functional MRI neurofeedback training to improve cognition. Our findings are summarized below:

  • We trained participants to volitionally increase the functional MRI signal in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex with real-time functional MRI neurofeedback training.
  • Measures of volitional control over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex increased significantly across the five days of training.
  • We examined working memory performance before and after real-time functional MRI and n-back training.
  • Working memory in the n-back plus real-time functional MRI group improved more than the n-back control group.
  • Self-regulating the functional MRI signal in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex may have cognitive benefits.

Novel Treatment for Chronic Tinnitus

We transitioned our real-time functional MRI neurofeedback training paradigm to a GE 3T MRI. In this study, funded by the U.S. Air Force 59th Medical Wing, we evaluated the efficacy of real-time functional MRI neurofeedback training in the treatment of tinnitus. Our findings are summarized below:

  • We trained participants to volitionally decrease the functional MRI signal in the primary auditory cortex with real-time functional MRI neurofeedback training.
  • Measures of volitional control over the primary auditory cortex increased significantly across the five days of training.
  • The group which received real neurofeedback demonstrated an improved ability to down-regulate the primary auditory cortex.
  • Improved ability to down-regulate the primary auditory cortex was significantly correlated with a decreased impact of emotion on attention.
  • Measures of activation in the primary auditory cortex to binaural auditory stimulation decreased significantly across training.
  • Altered resting-state connectivity was observed in attentional and default mode networks.

Functional MRI

In addition to the use of cutting-edge real-time functional brain imaging and neurofeedback, we also perform research involving more traditional functional MRI methods. We use functional MRI to investigate the neural correlates of learning, transcranial electrical and magnetic stimulation, and hypoxia. We specialize in analyzing functional MRI data, but also generate and execute experimental paradigms to fit our customer’s needs.

Cerebral Blood Flow

Cerebral blood flow is an important neurophysiological parameter. In comparison to signals based on blood oxygen (e.g., functional MRI), cerebral blood flow has better reliability and inter-subject variability. Furthermore, it is directly responsible for the delivery of glucose and oxygen. Both oxygen and glucose are necessary to maintain adenosine triphosphate production and needs to be replenished to support continued neural activity. Although cerebral blood flow is not a direct measure of neural activity, it is a tightly-coupled correlate: cerebral blood flow changes with neural activity such as that which occurs during task activation or with changing metabolism. Evidence published just this year in Nature Neuroscience indicates this coupling is electrical: extracellular K+ activates capillary endothelial cells which then signal upstream arteriolar dilation. The extracellular concentration of K+ increases during neural activity thereby signaling enhanced vasodilation and increased blood flow to the supporting capillary bed. Cerebral blood flow is quantified (mL/100 mg/min) non-invasively using MRI through an arterial spin labeling pulse sequence.

We currently use cerebral blood flow to study transcranial electrical stimulation and hypoxia.

Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy allows non-invasive measurements of Hydrogen-based (1H-MRS) brain metabolites and proteins such as N-acetylaspartate (NAA), Creatine (CRE), Choline (CHO). NAA is a marker of overall neuronal health, CRE is a central energy marker of neurons, and CHO is a marker of cellular metabolism. These three metabolites are of specific interest in the study of human performance because of their roles in cognition. We currently use magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study the neural correlates of transcranial electrical stimulation. Previously, we have used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study the neural correlates of mirror image bias and learning.


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