Research Seminars

The Center for Neural Engineering hosts a variety of seminars throughout the academic year to expose students to relevant work in the field. Upcoming seminars and those from the recent past are listed below.

January 19, 2022
12:00-1:00 p.m. | via Zoom

Automated Neuroprosthetics: Selfhood, Trust, and Partnership

Timothy Brown, Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Humanities
University of Washington School of Medicine

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October 6, 2021

Deep Brain Stimulation for Mood and Anxiety Disorders: Progress, Challenges, and Solutions

Alik Widge, Assistant Professor
Department of Psychiatry
University of Minnesota

Abstract: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been highly effective in the treatment of movement disorders and has undergone multiple clinical trials in psychiatric disorders. There have been promising early results in major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but blinded and randomized trials have not reliably shown a signal. Even in successful trials, a third or more of patients do not respond at all. Part of the problem is that DBS is applied at anatomically defined targets, without a clear understanding of how it affects brain function or how that might map to response or adverse effects. Dr. Alik Widge will overview the state of knowledge, then present a new approach to mechanistic studies, based on a cross-diagnostic approach. He will preview the next generation of DBS trials, which will likely be based on “closed loop” tracking of those mechanistic biomarkers using advanced stimulating and recording implants.

September 29, 2021

Nano- and Micro-Scale Technologies for Mapping Sensory-Driven Activity from the Brain Surface

Daniel L. Gonzales, Postdoctoral Fellow
Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering
Purdue University

Abstract: From nano-scale synapses up to centimeter-sized brain regions, complex computations occur at every spatial scale in the mammalian brain. In networks of thousands of neurons, cellular and subcellular computations govern emergent properties such as behavior, perception, and learning. Therefore, a mechanistic understanding of cognition requires monitoring neural activity across many spatial scales. Here, Dr. Daniel L. Gonzales will discuss efforts to develop nano- and micro-scale technologies that enable multi-scale neurophysiology from the cortical surface in behaving animals. These flexible grids conform to the brain surface and record sensory-driven neural activity across a high-density array of recording pads. Simultaneously, he and his colleagues use silicon shanks or two-photon imaging to capture deep-layer cortical activity. The preliminary results suggest that local field potentials at the cortical surface have a substantial subcellular component, potentially dendritic in origin, that can be mapped on a scalable platform across cortical regions. The work enables a platform for neurophysiology that links activity across spatial scales and informs how subcellular dynamics guide population level outputs during behavior and perception.

September 22, 2021

Defining the Circuit-Based Mechanisms of Psychiatric Disease Vulnerability in Females

Erin. S. Calipari, Assistant Professor
Department of Pharmacology
Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research
Vanderbilt University

Abstract: The mesolimbic dopamine system is involved in the expression of sex-specific behaviors and is a critical mediator of many psychiatric disease states. While work has focused on sex differences in the anatomy of dopamine neurons and relative dopamine levels, an important characteristic of dopamine release from axon terminals in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) is that it is rapidly modulated by local regulatory mechanisms independent of somatic activity. One of the most potent regulators of dopamine terminal function is through α4β2*-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). While α4β2* regulation of dopamine release is robust in males, this regulatory mechanism is not present in intact female mice. However, ovariectomy restores this regulation in females—indicating that ovarian hormones play a role in this process. Critically, Dr. Calipari and her lab define the molecular mechanism underling these unique sex differences in dopamine regulation. Through a series of experiments with optical and pharmacological approaches, Dr. Calipari finds that estradiol increases dopamine release acutely through direct potentiation of α4β2*-nAChRs on dopamine terminals and following long-term exposure, alters the regulatory properties of these receptors. Finally, using optical and chemogenetic approaches in awake and behaving animals, Dr. Calipari links these sex differences to sex differences in motivated behaviors. Overall, Dr. Calipari shows that circulating ovarian hormones alter the ability of α4β2*-nAChRs on dopamine terminals to modulate dopamine release in the NAc and show that sex differences in the regulation of dopamine neurotransmission underlies sex-dependent behavior. These data have implications for understanding sex differences in basic neurobiology as well as for understanding sex differences in addiction vulnerability for stimulant drugs of abuse.

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The Penn State Center for Neural Engineering is a large, interdisciplinary research group that brings together neural engineering-focused researchers from the Penn State College of Engineering, the College of Medicine, the Materials Research Institute, and the Eberly College of Science. Chartered in June 2007, the center occupies 22,000 square feet of space in the Millennium Science Complex.

Center for Neural Engineering

Millennium Science Complex

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802