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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2018-06-27 10:00:25
    • Article ID: 696689

    A Next-Gen EEG Could Help Bring Back Lost Brain Function

    SLAC and Stanford researchers are developing a device that combines electrical brain stimulation with EEG recording, opening potential new paths for treating neurological disorders.

    • Credit: Dawn Harmer/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

      Researchers at SLAC and Stanford are developing a new device that could be used in non-invasive therapies that aim to bring back lost brain function through electrical stimulation of the brain.

    • Credit: Dawn Harmer/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

      Members of the SLAC and Stanford team that is developing an EEG system that can deliver electrical brain stimulation and measure the brain’s ongoing activity at the same time. From left: Jeff Olsen (SLAC), Christopher Kenney (SLAC), Ben Reese (SLAC), Martin Breidenbach (SLAC), Anthony Norcia (Stanford) and Vladimir Vildavski (Stanford).

    A device under development at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University could help bring back lost brain function by measuring how the brain responds to therapies that stimulate it with electric current.

    The approach could open new avenues for treating brain disorders and selectively switching brain activities on and off, says Anthony Norcia, a professor of psychology at Stanford who initiated the project.

    Neurostimulation via electrodes placed on the scalp shows a lot of promise, but its immediate effects are hard to study because the brain’s neural response gets easily swamped by the million times stronger pulses that researchers send into the brain. To detect the much fainter brain response, scientists had to monitor brain waves and behavioral response in separate sessions before and after stimulation. The new device measures brain waves at practically the same time the stimulus is applied, potentially establishing a much better link between the two.

    “The device works similar to radar, which sends out electromagnetic waves and passively listens for the weaker reflected waves,” says SLAC senior scientist Christopher Kenney. “Here, we send electrical pulses into the head via the electrodes of an EEG monitoring system, and in the time between those strong pulses we use the same electrodes to pick up the much weaker electrical signals from inside the head.”

    Stimulating the Electrical Brain

    Our brain is an intricate network of hundreds of billions of neurons, and anything that interrupts this network, such as abnormal brain development or a stroke, can cause severe disorders, including epilepsy, depression, anxiety, visual impairment, chronic pain and paralysis.

    Stimulating brain tissue alters the way neurons fire and helps the brain form neural connections. Norcia’s research focuses on applying the method to cases of visual impairment, such as amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (crossed eyes), and on better understanding phenomena like binocular rivalry, which describes the fact that when presented with two different images at the same time, we can only be aware of one at a time.

    Norcia’s group develops models that describe how electrical activity from the brain’s visual centers radiates to the scalp, where it can be picked up and measured by an EEG. They also develop models for delivering electrical pulses to specific locations in the brain, where they alter brain function associated with vision.

    “Our models give us a pretty good idea for how to design an array of electrodes to reach specific volumes inside the head,” Norcia says. “But we also want to be able to ‘listen’ to the brain’s response at the same time to figure out whether an applied stimulus had the desired effect.”

    Doing so simultaneously isn’t possible with today’s clinical EEG systems, but that may soon change thanks to the collaboration with SLAC.

    A New Type of EEG

    Searching for a solution to the technical challenge, Norcia began talking to Kenney, who specializes in detector development for SLAC experiments that study nature’s most fundamental physics processes, and Martin Breidenbach, a professor of particle physics and astrophysics at SLAC and Stanford.

    “At SLAC, we’re trying to answer some of the really big questions about our universe, and figuring out how the human mind works seems to be right up there,” Breidenbach says. “We certainly have the engineering skills and resources to help with some of the technical issues in neuroscience. With our background in high-energy physics, we’re also used to multidisciplinary collaborations and know how to make them work.”

    About a year after the project received funding through Stanford Bio-X, the team has successfully tested a prototype for an EEG system that can deliver electrical brain stimulation and measure the brain’s ongoing activity at the same time.

    To do so, they paired the electronics board of a conventional EEG monitor with another one they built that delivers electric stimuli generated with 9-volt batteries. Then they successfully tested the device on themselves.   

    Toward Medical Therapy

    More work needs to be done before studies on a larger group of people can begin. For example, future versions of the device will have more electrodes and will provide more control over the way the pulses are delivered.

    “Right now, we can basically switch stimuli on and off and set their intensities and durations,” says SLAC’s Jeff Olsen, an electrical engineer on the project. “In the next generation, we’ll be able to program the device, which will let us choose different types of signal shapes and synchronize electrical signals with other external triggers, such as visual stimulation.”

    But the team’s plans don’t stop there.

    “In the long run, we would like to develop a device on a chip,” Kenney says. That would make neurostimulation available to patients wherever they go. 

    Other collaborators involved in this project include Stephen Boyd, chair of Stanford’s Department of Electrical Engineering, and Nolan Williams, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford.

    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, Calif., SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more information, please visit slac.stanford.edu.

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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    Researchers switch material from one state to another with a single flash of light

    Scientists from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have demonstrated a surprisingly simple way of flipping a material from one state into another, and then back again, with single flashes of laser light.

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    Engineering professor receives Department of Energy grant

    New Mexico State University Department of Civil Engineering Assistant Professor Ehsan Dehghan Niri has received a United States Department of Energy grant. This is a three-year award for $400,000 and is a collaboration with Arizona State University.

    AVS and AIP Publishing Expand Partnership to Launch AVS Quantum Science

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    Prototype Solar Energy, Battery Systems to Fuel Commercialization

    Designing, building and testing prototype systems that show how renewable energy can power devices, such as a weather and soil sensor station, can help bridge the gap between basic science research and commercialization.

    Argonne to Advance High Performance Computing in Manufacturing

    Argonne awarded funding to partner with Industry to advance the use of high performance computing in manufacturing.

    "Invisible Glass" Wins 2018 Create the Future Design Contest Grand Prize

    Scientists from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials developed a technique for making nonreflecting glass, silicon, and plastic surfaces.

    Missouri S&T researchers win multimillion dollar grant to build fast-charging stations for electric cars

    Researchers from Missouri S&T and three private companies will combine their expertise to create charging stations for electric vehicles that could charge a car in less than 10 minutes - matching the time it takes to fill up a conventional vehicle with gasoline."The big problem with electric vehicles is range, and it's not so much range as range anxiety.

    Making batteries store more energy, last longer

    A new solid polymer electrolyte may help make cell phone batteries store more energy and last longer.

    Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Named Fellows of American Physical Society

    The American Physical Society (APS), the world's largest physics organization, has elected three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory as 2018 APS fellows.

    Southern Research first to win accreditation under ISO 14034

    Southern Research has become the first organization in the United States to earn accreditation under ISO 14034, a new international standard for evaluating and verifying environmental technologies that was recently adopted by the American National Standards Institute.

    Kawtar Hafidi to head Physical Sciences and Engineering directorate at Argonne

    Physicist Kawtar Hafidi has been appointed Associate Laboratory Director, Physical Sciences and Engineering at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.


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    Cryocooler Cools an Accelerator Cavity

    Researchers demonstrated cryogen-free operation of a superconducting radio-frequency cavity that might ease barriers to its use in societal applications.

    Shining Light on the Separation of Rare Earth Metals

    New studies identify key molecular characteristics to potentially separate rare earth metals cleanly and efficiently with light.

    Placing Atoms for Optimum Catalysts

    Precise positioning of oxygens could help engineer faster, more efficient energy-relevant chemical transformations.

    How to Make Soot and Stardust

    Scientists unlock mystery that could help reduce emissions of fine particles from combustion engines and other sources.

    Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

    Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

    Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

    Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

    Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

    First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

    Seeing Between the Atoms

    New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

    Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene

    New method can make films of atomically thin carbon that are over a foot long.

    Discovered: Optimal Magnetic Fields Suppress Instabilities in Tokamak Plasmas

    U.S. and Korean scientists show how to find and use beneficial 3-D field perturbations to stabilize dangerous edge-localized modes in plasma.


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