Epilepsy devastates the nervous system by triggering changes in different anatomical regions and functional processes across the entire brain. These changes are collectively implicated in the degradation of cognition, but their emergence and progression are not easily traced.
Through a new four-year, $700,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Aviad Hai, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his team will leverage their newly developed brain imaging sensors and apply them to study the cross-regional manifestations of brain seizures in epilepsy.
By taking advantage of wireless electromagnetic sensors for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the project will combine the three-dimensional capabilities of fMRI with the specificity of implantable sensors that detect electrical brain activity directly.
“The hope is that we will soon unravel the inter-circuit emergence of seizures and their effects across the brain,” says Hai, who is also an affiliate of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and is part of the Grainger Institute for Engineering’s neuroengineering and sensors and sensing groups.
Current functional whole-brain imaging and recording technologies provide only indirect readouts of neural activity or spatially constrained direct electrophysiological recording.
The project aims to gather information about direct brain activity from different brain regions and detect abnormal neurogenic electromagnetic fields using multiple wireless sensors implanted in the brain. Hai will work with three biomedical engineering colleagues—Associate Professor Kip Ludwig, Peter Tong Department Chair and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor Justin Williams and Professor Walter Block—as advisers for combining implantable neural sensors with functional MRI of the brain.
The grant will facilitate an initial step in Hai’s laboratory to empower neurological research for treating and monitoring epilepsy and will contribute to characterization of this neurological disorder in new and more precise ways.