Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tapping the brain orchestra

Date:
December 15, 2011
Source:
Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Summary:
Researchers have developed a new method for detailed analyses of electrical activity in the brain. The method can help doctors and researchers to better interpret brain cell signals. In turn, this may lead to considerable steps forward in terms of interpreting for example EEG measurements, making diagnoses and treatment of various brain illnesses.

A forest of neurons.
Credit: Hermann Cuntz

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) have developed a new method for detailed analyses of electrical activity in the brain. The method, recently published in Neuron, can help doctors and researcher to better interpret brain cell signals.

In turn, this may lead to considerable steps forward in terms of interpreting for example EEG measurements, making diagnoses and treatment of various brain illnesses.

Researchers and doctors have been measuring and interpreting electrical activity generated by brain cells since 1875. Doctors have over the years acquired considerable practical skills in relating signal shapes to different brain illnesses such as epilepsy. However, doctors have so far had little knowledge on how these signals are formed in the network of nerve cells.

"Based on methods from physics, mathematics and informatics, as well as computational power from the Stallo supercomputer in Tromsř, we have developed detailed mathematical models revealing the connection between nerve cell activity and the electrical signal recorded by an electrode," says Professor Gaute Einevoll at the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Technology (IMT) at UMB.

Microphone in a crowd

The problem of interpreting electrical signals measured by electrodes in the brain is similar to that of interpreting sound signals measures by a microphone in a crowd of people. Just like people sometimes all talk at once, nerve cells are also sending signals "on top of each other."

The electrode records the sounds from the whole orchestra of nerve cells surrounding it and there are numerous contributors. One cubic millimetre can contain as many as 100,000 nerve cells.

Treble and bass

Similar to bass and treble in a soundtrack, high and low frequency electrical signals are distinguished in the brain.

"This project has focused on the bass -- the low frequency signals called "local field potential" or simply LFP. We have found that if nerve cells are babbling randomly on top of each other and out of sync, the electrode's reach is narrow so that it can only receive signals from nerve cells less than about 0.3 millimetres away. However, when nerve cells are speaking simultaneously and in sync, the range can be much wider," Einevoll says.

Large treatment potential

Better understanding of the electrical brain signals may directly influence diagnosing and treatment of illnesses such as epilepsy.

"Electrodes are already being used to measure brain cell activity related to seizures in epilepsy patients, as well as planning surgical procedures. In the future, LFP signals measured by implanted electrodes could detect an impending epilepsy seizure and stop it by injecting a suitable electrical current," Einevoll says.

"A similar technique is being used on many Parkinson's patients, who have had electrodes surgically implanted to prevent trembling," researcher Klas Pettersen at UMB adds..

Einevoll and Pettersen also outline treatment of patients paralysed by spinal cord fracture as another potential area where the method can be used.

"When a patient is paralysed, nerve cells in the cerebral cortex continue to send out signals, but the signals do not reach the muscles, and the patient is thus unable to move arms or legs. By monitoring the right nerve cells and forwarding these signals to for example a robot arm, the patient may be able to steer by his or her thoughts alone," Einevoll says.

The Computational Neuroscience Group at UMB has already established contacts with clinical research groups in the USA and Europe for further research on using the approach in patient treatment.

International interest

Gaute Einevoll recently published the article "Modeling the spatial reach of the LFP" in Neuron, together with his former research fellow Henrik Lindén, currently working at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, and researchers Tom Tetzlaff and Klas H. Pettersen at UMB. German researchers Tobias Potjans, professor Sonja Grün and professor Markus Diesmann at Research Center Jülich have also contributed to the study.

The project is mainly financed by the Research Council of Norway's eScience programme and is an example of the increased importance of computational neuroscience in modern brain research.

Einevoll was recently appointed one of four new directors of Organization for Computational Neurosciences, and is also co-leader of the Norwegian national node of INCF (International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility).

Both organisations work to promote the use of methods from informatics, mathematics and physics in brain research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Henrik Lindén, Tom Tetzlaff, Tobias C. Potjans, Klas H. Pettersen, Sonja Grün, Markus Diesmann, Gaute T. Einevoll. Modeling the Spatial Reach of the LFP. Neuron, 2011; 72 (5): 859 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.11.006

Cite This Page:

Norwegian University of Life Sciences. "Tapping the brain orchestra." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111212093740.htm>.
Norwegian University of Life Sciences. (2011, December 15). Tapping the brain orchestra. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111212093740.htm
Norwegian University of Life Sciences. "Tapping the brain orchestra." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111212093740.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) — Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) — Nigerian authorities have shut and quarantined a Lagos hospital where a Liberian man died of the Ebola virus, the first recorded case of the highly-infectious disease in Africa's most populous economy. David Pollard reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — According to a new study, just five minutes of running or jogging a day could add years to your life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — The Ebola outbreak in West Africa poses little threat to Americans, according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins