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|Discovery of New Neurological Networks|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Story Contact: Dr. Salvatore Domenic Morgera
Phone: +1 (813) 974-1004
Discovery of New Neurological Networks
The brain has both fixed and wireless networks.
TAMPA, FLA. (July 6, 2016): The human nervous system provides extremely energy efficient, highly complex realization and control of how we sense and think. For machines designed by humans, the ideas of energy efficiency and complexity are at odds, thus the question of how the nervous system really works has received intense scrutiny for decades. Researchers at the University of South Florida under the direction of Dr. Sal Morgera have discovered a sophisticated electric near-field generated in an energy efficient, natural manner by our millions of nerve fibers.
The electric field bathes regions of the central nervous system like the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cords, thereby creating a wireless network that has the capability, for example, to interconnect different physical regions of the brain at specific instants of time. This discovery leads to a paradigm shift in thinking that augments the human connectome, a fixed anatomical network, with a relatively rapid high-capacity wireless network. The graphic below explains the discovery in simple terms.
On the left-half of the graphic is the human connectome shown as a tractographic map of the nerve fiber connections in the human brain. This mapping of anatomical connections is the fixed network of the brain. It is well known that this fixed brain network is not entirely successful in explaining brain function, especially for cognitive tasks. On the right-half of the graphic are blowups showing neurons in two representative regions of the brain. The discovery is the presence of an electric near-field between these neurons, or neuronal groups, a point illustrated by the red spherical waves. These near-field waves communicate action potential activity and fine details of their respective regions in a bi-directional manner. This creates a wireless connection, as shown by the red loop across these brain regions in the left-half of the graphic. Thus, the brain consists of a fixed network augmented by a wireless network which helps to explain how physically disparate regions of the brain connect so quickly during the execution of cognitive tasks. Furthermore, neurological diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Autism Spectrum Disorder, are associated with dysfunctions that are similar to those experienced in conventional wireless networks.
Researchers in the University of South Florida Bioengineering Laboratory believe that the discovery of electric near-field networks in the central nervous system will lead to a much greater understanding of this highly complex system and relief for the millions that suffer neurological diseases and dysfunctions, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The plan is to passively read the signatures of the internal electric near-fields (the endogenous fields) using specially designed antennas in order to diagnose neurological dysfunction and then to rationally design time-varying, frequency-rich electric fields (the exogenous fields) that can be externally applied to actively interact with the internal fields and treat the dysfunction by “tuning” the central nervous system.
Developing individualized therapy for patients with neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders is the gold standard, a standard that can only be reached by understanding a patient’s electric near-field signatures. A futuristic look at this area which is just gaining traction in the realm of clinical medicine is to have minimally invasive devices for diagnosis and treatment that are individually programmed and adaptable to change. These devices may function with USB-like software delivered to an implanted device as shown in the graphic above or by other means, but what is certain is that the effect and impact on meeting societal needs will indeed be powerful.
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 50 research university among both public and private institutions nationwide in both federal research expenditures and total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving nearly 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.5 billion and an annual economic impact of $3.7 billion.
Additional information on the University of South Florida Bioengineering Laboratory, integrated with the Defense and Intelligence Research Laboratory (DIRL), may be found at http://www.usf.edu/engineering/ee/research/index.aspx or directly from the Director, Dr. Morgera. Information on the Global Center for Neurological Networks can be found at www.globalneuronetworks.com or directly from the Director, Discovery & Targeting, Dr. Morgera.
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