By Emilie Reas, PLOS Neuro Community Editor
One of the greatest obstacles to understanding the neural underpinnings of human cognition is the challenge of directly assessing neuronal activity during complex, higher-level cognitive functions. While the most commonly used and readily accessible tools, such as functional MRI (fMRI), measure signals that roughly track underlying neural activity, they don’t directly measure electrophysiological changes at the neural level. However, recent advances in neuroimaging techniques, including intracranial EEG and electrical brain stimulation, are making it increasingly feasible to both record and manipulate neural activity while individuals communicate, perceive, remember, and experience emotions.
As a researcher who has used fMRI to examine the brain bases of memory, I’ve considered these invasive electrophysiological approaches as the methodologically super-powered cousins of fMRI, allowing us to examine the brain at a more intimate, precise level. I’m therefore eagerly anticipating the symposium “Studying Human Cognition with Intracranial EEG and Electrical Brain Stimulation” at this year’s Society for Neuroscience conference (details below), which I’m planning to cover in a subsequent blog post. The symposium will feature four talks about how intracranial EEG and brain stimulation are being used to better understand human cognition and brain function.
Studying Human Cognition with Intracranial EEG and Electrical Brain Stimulation
Sunday, Nov 16, 2014, 1:30 PM – 4:00 PM
WCC Bllrm C
Josef Parvizi, Stanford University
Dr. Parvizi uses a combination of intracranial electrocorticography, electrical brain stimulation, and functional neuroimaging to understand the anatomical and physiological basis for cognitive experience and how these are affected in patients with neurological disorders.
Rafael Malach, Weizmann Institute
Dr Malach’s research integrates both non-invasive and invasive neuroimaging methods to examine the link between perceptual awareness and neuronal spatio-temporal dynamics.
Jean-Philippe Lachaux, Lyon Neuroscience Research Center – INSERM
Dr. Lachaux applies intracranial EEG to study to the neural processes and subjective experience of attentional states at the “microcognitive” (millisecond scale) level.
Sabine Kastner, Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Dr. Kastner uses functional neuroimaging, behavior and electrophysiology in humans and non-human primates to understand selective attention at the cortical and subcortical stages.
Interview with Dr. Josef Parvizi
In anticipation of his talk on the convergent findings from intracranial EEG, fMRI, and electrical brain stimulation in conscious human subjects, Dr. Josef Parvizi has graciously agreed to share his thoughts on the state of Neuroscience and his own research. Dr. Parvizi leads the Laboratory of Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology at Stanford University, where he serves as Associate Professor of Neurology and started the Human Intracranial Cognitive Electrophysiology Program. His lab applies a multi-modal approach to mapping the human brain, using electrocorticography, electrical brain stimulation, and functional imaging to explore the neural bases of emotion, consciousness and neurological disorders.
If you could use a magic wand to improve one aspect of how research is conducted, what would you do?
Parvizi: I wish we could turn research into more collaborative teamwork across the ordinary competition lines with one and only one goal of discovering and helping the science propel forward regardless of the egos involved.
What, in your view, is the one most exciting recent finding that neuroscience has produced?
This is so tough to answer. I’m getting more and more myopic and following only my own field of research. So the most exciting one finding may not be the most exciting one to others… so I better leave your question there…
Did you (or do you) have a mentor? How did she or he influence you?
Parvizi: Yes definitely. My first mentor was Humberto Maturana from Chile who taught me to always consider the brain as a closed loop, and never look at it as a Cartesian theater. My second mentor was Antonio Damasio who taught me to respect the brain as an embodied organ serving homeostasis at multiple levels.
What are some current challenges to better understanding how the brain supports mental processes?
Parvizi: One of the main challenges is that increasing number of us are focusing more and more on the rodent model, and at the expense of neglecting the major differences that exist between brain circuitries in rodents and primates. We should never neglect primate research.
Where do you see the field in ten years?
Parvizi: Oh I wish I had a crystal ball…
Join me this Sunday afternoon to learn more from Dr. Parvizi and colleagues about the exciting applications of intracranial EEG and brain stimulation!
The views expressed in this post belong to the author and are not necessarily those of PLOS.