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Active Research Projects

Matthew Howard, MD

Sponsor:              National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Project Title:       Human Auditory Cortex of Physiology

Project Period:  08/01/2000 – 11/30/2020

Speech sounds are the most important sounds that we hear, yet little is known about how these stimulie are represented within human cerebral cortex. The goal of our research is to understand the functional organizations and connections of those areas of human cerebral cortex that are engaged in wound processing and examine how auditory and visual speech stimuli are represented in these regions. These experiments involve direct electrophysiological recording from an electrical stimulation of the cerebral cortex of awake human subjects undergoing clinical evaluation of intractable epilepsy. 

Sponsor:              Defense Advance Research Project (DARPA) / Johns Hopkins University

Project Title:       Peripheral Nerve Stimulation to Facilitate Language Learning

Project Period:  03/02/2017 – 03/01/2020

The results of pre-clinical experimental animal research indicate that electrical stimulation of the vagal nervous system alters sounds information processing within auditory cortex. These effects may enhance the capacity of the animal to more rapidly acquire the ability to assign meaning to novel acoustic stimuli.  In theory this mechanism might be harness to enhance the ability of humans to more rapidly and effectively acquire foreign language skills. This study is directed at studying the effects of vagal nerve stimulation on sound processing within human auditory cortex using the unique human subjects capabilities of the University of Iowa’s Human Brain Research Laboratory. This is a collaborative research program with Johns Hopkins University and the UCSF. 

Sponsor:              Wellcome Trust / Newcastle University

Project Title:       Sound information processing within the human brain

Project Period:  12/01/2015 – 11/30/2020

The brain neural mechanisms that subserve the human ability to identify and characterize objects in the environment based on their acoustic signals is poorly understood. Using multiple complimentary invasive and non-invasive experimental methods in HBRL research subjects this project is directed at studying the underlying mechanisms of auditory object identification within the human brain. This is a collaborative research program with colleagues at Newcastle University and University College London.

Sponsor:              Wellcome Trust / Newcastle University

Project Title:       Neuronal networks and mechanisms for identifying individuals

Project Period:  01/04/2016 – 01/03/2019

One the most functions of the human auditory system is to enable people to identify individuals based on their visual and acoustic feathers (e.g. voice). This research program is directed at studying how the visual and auditory information of individual humans is represented within the human brain. A combination of functional imaging and direct neural recording and electrical stimulation mapping techniques are used in HBRL human subjects to pursue these scientific aims. This is a collaborative research program with the Newcastle University.

Matthew Howard, MD, and Hiroyuki Oya, MD

Sponsor:              National Institute of Health (NIH) / California Institute of Technology

Project Title:       Causal mapping of emotion networks with concurrent electrical stimulation and fMRI

Project Period:  12/15/2017 – 11/30/2020

Emotions are a ubiquitous and highly salient aspect of our lives.  Pathology of emotions is one of the most disabling aspects of neurological and psychiatric disease, and arguably has the greatest impact on quality of life. At the level of the brain, disorders of emotion, like all psychiatric disorders, are network phenomena: to understand them, we need to know how different brain regions causally influence one another, at a whole-brain level. This knowledge has been exceedingly difficult to obtain in the human brain, and essentially all of our network-level knowledge of human brain function is currently derived solely from correlational fMRI data and cannot infer “causal” connectivity across the brain.

We’ll tackle this problem with 2 complementary methods. 1. Application of novel causal discovery algorithm to the BOLD time series from available databases (e.g., from Human connectome project). 2. Concurrent direct electrical stimulation of human brain and fMRI in epilepsy patients.

Combining these novel methods will provide a powerful link between causal influences among brain structures that process emotion and human behavior.

Sponsor:              National Institute of Health (NIH) / California Institute of Technology

Project Title:       Neuronal substrates of hemodynamic signal in the prefrontal cortex

Project Period:  09/14/2016 – 07/31/2021

fMRI is the dominant technique for probing human prefrontal cortex functions in cognition, learning and decision-making.  Yet, virtually nothing is known about how fMRI activations relate to the underlying neural computations within the prefrontal cortex. The overarching goal of this research is to elucidate the relationship between neuronal computations and fMRI responses in the same areas of the prefrontal cortex.  To achieve this goal, we will measure fMRI activity to identify the locus of activations in prefrontal cortex while separately recording neuronal activity using a multi-electrode recording system whose placement is guided by those fMRI activations. We will also probe the neurophysiological basis of functional connectivity typically found between regions of prefrontal cortex in human fMRI studies, by recording simultaneously from multiple regions identified as being functionally connected through our fMRI measurements. 

We will address these questions in macaque monkeys (Caltech), and then extend our findings directly to humans (Iowa), scanning healthy human participants with fMRI, and making use of a rare opportunity to obtain both intracranial electrophysiological signals and fMRI scans from the prefrontal cortex in a group of human patients undergoing evaluation for surgical treatment of epilepsy, using virtually the same task that engages prefrontal cortex (value-based decision making task).

By combining across these different techniques and methodologies in both humans and monkeys, we will address the question of which aspects of underlying neuronal responses gives rise to the fMRI signal in prefrontal cortex. The work will provide an essential bridge between fMRI and finer-scaled electrophysiologically-based methods for studying high order cognitive function.

Arnold H. Menezes, MBBS

Sponsor: Park-Reeves Syringomyelia Research Consortium,  The Park-Reeves Syringomyelia Research Consortium is a multi-institutional North American research effort founded to improve the medical and surgical care of children with syringomyelia related to Chiari I malformation. Through collaboration, we will work to enrich the lives and prevent disability in those affected by this condition.

Kirill Nourski, MD, PhD

Sponsor:              National Institute of Health (NIH) / University of Wisconsin-Madsion

Project Title:       Mechanisms of anesthetic-induced unconsciousness

Project Period:  02/15/2014 – 05/31/2022

Despite the central role general anesthetics play in surgical and medical practice, a systems-level account of how they cause loss of consciousness remains unknown. This research seeks to understand these mechanisms using intracranial electrophysiological recordings from human patients who undergo clinical evaluation for surgical remediation of their medically intractable epilepsy. Knowledge gained from this project will be of high impact for the development of more accurate non-invasive monitors of awareness for patients undergoing surgery and those in vegetative or minimally conscious states, and development of novel general anesthetic agents with fewer side effects than those currently in use.

Hiroyuki Oya, MD

Sponsor:              University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development

Project Title:       Iowa-ISU Brain Research Advancement through Innovative Neuromodulation Strategies to Improve Mental Health (Oya UI-ISU Seed Grant)

Project Period:  07/01/2018 – 06/30/2020

Transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) has been clinically used for the treatment of psychological condition (i.e., depression ), yet there remain a room for improvement for treatment effect. A major limitation of TMS is that only cortical surface can be stimulated. In this study, we ‘ll design and test a novel TMS coils (triple-halo + butterfly coil) that can stimulate deeper brain structures by simultaneously discharge these two components. We’ll perform detailed electro-magnetic field simulation and validate the results with electrophysiological measurements from phantom-experiment and human patients with intracranial electrodes.

David Hasan, MD

Sponsor: Medicure, Inc.

Project Title: Induced Suppression of Platelets Activity in Aneurysmal SAH Management (iSPASM)

Project Period: 06/18/2018 – 12/31/2020

This is a phase 1/2a, single-center, randomized, open-label, control vs. Aggrastat study. The generalized investigational plan is to explore the safety profile of Aggrastat administered continuously over the course of 7 days in the setting of subarachnoid hemorrhage at least 12 hours post clinically indicated Endovascular Coil Embolization procedure.

As a part of the study, qualifying subjects will undergo 2 MRIs administered within 24 hours post Coil Embolization procedure and prior to discharge to monitor for the ischemic changes, neurological exam and vital signs administered at screening and/or randomization visit(s), daily during drug administration, and at follow-up visits. Additional interventions include administration of questionnaires including mRS score documentation, IADL, QOLIBRI-OS.

Patrick Hitchon, MD

Sponsor:              InVivo Therapeutics

Project Title:       Randomized, Controlled, Single-blind Study of Probable Benefit of the Neuro-Spinal Scaffold™ for Safety and Neurologic Recovery in Subjects with Complete Thoracic AIS A Spinal Cord Injury as Compared to Standard of Care

Project Period:  2019 – 2028

In this study we assess the safety of a novel medical device. The Neuro-Spinal Scaffold™ is a bioresorbable polymer scaffold, which is implanted in the contusion in the spinal cord acutely. The Scaffold is intended to act as a physical substrate for cell growth, appositional healing, and tissue remodeling, thereby preserving the structural integrity of the cord.