Frequently Asked Questions

Research Focus & Methods

What areas of the brain do you study?

We study a broad range of brain areas including the prefrontal cortex (orbitofrontal, lateral prefrontal and cingulate cortices) and subcortical regions (striatum, hippocampus, and amygdala).

How do you measure neuromodulators?

As part of neurosurgery for treatment, custom-made carbon fiber electrodes are introduced into the patient's brain. These electrodes allow us to carry out fast (10 times for second) estimation of neuromodulator concentrations in deep brain areas.

What is neurochemistry?

Neurochemistry is the study of the chemicals that are involved in neuronal signaling and impact brain states. While activity within a neuron is transmitted through electrical signals, messages between neurons are transmitted by chemical signals. These chemical signals are called neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. In neurological conditions, changes in neurotransmitters and neuromodulators are observed. For example, in Parkinson’s disease there is a depletion of dopamine, a chemical that can act as both a neurotransmitter and a neuromodulator.

Why do you use the human model?

We are interested in understanding the neurological basis of human behavior. We believe that the human model offers an incomparable opportunity to investigate thoughts, feelings and cognition along with behavior as participants can relay their experience in a way that non-human models cannot.

Traditional non-human (animal) models are integral to basic neuroscientific research. However, extrapolation is required for these results to become clinically relevant as the human brain is more complex than that of any other animal.

Technology & Techniques

How does your neuroscience research use AI and machine learning?

The devices we use collect a considerable amount of data. The scale of the recorded information makes it hard for humans to analyze manually. We take advantage of AI and machine learning to speed up our analysis through automation.

What is a brain-computer interface?

A brain-computer interface (BCI) is a technology that creates a direct communication pathway between a brain and an external device. We use BCI systems in our research to both record and stimulate brain activity. BCI devices with recording electrodes can measure current changes that are caused by charged ions entering and exiting neurons in the brain during activity. BCI devices with stimulating electrodes can apply an electrical signal to impact brain activity.

How does deep brain stimulation work?

Deep brain stimulation involves implantation of a device to deliver electrical pulses to specific brain areas. This form of therapy uses controlled and targeted stimulation to interrupt abnormal electrical activity and recover activity to a healthy state. Read more about DBS here.

What does EEG mean?

EEG is the abbreviation of electroenchephalogram. This is a test that measures electrical activity. EEGs are used to diagnose and monitor neurological conditions such as epilepsy. Non-invasive EEGs involve placing electrodes on the scalp while an invasive EEG (iEEG) involves the use of intracranial electrodes to measure brain activity with a higher level of accuracy.

How do the implanted devices work?

As part of neurosurgery for treatment, 10-100 electrodes are introduced into the patient's brain. These electrodes are on the scale of 1cm. Each electrode can record the electrical activity of individual cells or clusters of surrounding cells. This information is measured in voltage or current changes and is used to analyze brain activity.

What is electrophysiology?

Electrophysiology is a branch of neuroscience that explores the electrical activity of biological systems by measuring voltage changes or currents in the brain. Neurons communicate using electrical signals, so measuring these signals can help us to learn about brain activity. 

Read more about electrophysiology here.

Therapeutic Applications

What are the translational applications of this work?

The goal of our research is to better understand and broaden the treatment options available for patients with neurological conditions.

What is the goal of deep brain stimulation therapy?

Deep brain stimulation therapy is used clinically to improve the symptoms of neurological conditions. In the application of this therapy controlled and targeted stimulation is used to interrupt abnormal electrical activity and recover activity to a healthy state. This manipulation of brain activity is linked to an improvement in the symptoms of neurological conditions, such as reducing tremors in Parkinson’s disease. Read more about DBS here.

Clinical Research Trials

Are there ongoing clinical trials?

Yes. Our group is part of a collaborative effort to increase the range of pathologies to be treated with this method. Find out more about our ongoing trials here.

Will my participation impact my recovery?

No. Participation in our research will not impact the clinical treatment you receive.

Will my participation be confidential?

Yes. No identifiable information will be included in our study.

Will I be compensated for my participation?

No. Participation in our research is voluntary.

Are there risks or side effects associated with participating in your studies?

No. Participation in our research will not impact the clinical treatment you receive. Our team works with the clinician team to ensure that our research does not interfere with clinical treatment. If for any reason you decide to withdraw from the study, this is possible at any point in our research.

Who is eligible for your studies?

We are currently recruiting participants who are undergoing neurosurgery for treatment of conditions including epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and depression.

What does participation entail?

When a participant is undergoing neurosurgery for treatment, clinicians insert electrodes within the brain to record, and sometimes stimulate, brain activity. Clinicians employ this technology to track patients' neurological conditions, for example when a patient with epilepsy has a seizure. Our lab uses the information that is being recorded from patients to learn more about the relationship between brain activity and thoughts, feelings, and behavior. We have developed quantifiable and reproducible tasks (i.e. computer games) that patients can engage with that will enable us to better understand the brain activity involved in processes such as decision making and memory recall.

How long will my participation in the study last?

The duration of monitoring/recording varies between individuals. The duration of recording is determined by your clinical doctor.

Will participation inform my clinical treatment?

No. Participation in our research will not impact the clinical treatment you receive.