Congratulations to our 2022-2023 MnDRIVE Neuromodulation Research Fellows!

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MnDRIVE Neuromodulation Research Fellowship Recipients

Join us in congratulating the recipients of the 2022-2023 MnDRIVE Neuromodulation Research Fellowships! 

MnDRIVE Neuromodulation Research Fellowships

Graduate Fellows

Cerebello-hippocampal interactions via the supramammillary area

Shayne Hastings, Department of Neuroscience.  Mentor is Esther Krook-Magnuson, Ph.D., Neuroscience.

Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is the most common form of epilepsy in adults and affects roughly 60,000 Minnesotans. Shayne Hastings' project will examine the connections and understudied intermediary regions between the cerebellum and hippocampus and how those may contribute to the development of novel targets for seizure intervention via neuromodulation. Understanding how other brain regions modulate hippocampal function may allow for development of new neuromodulation interventions for the treatment of epilepsy.

Closed-loop renal nerve block for treatment of resistant hypertension

Dzifa Kwaku, Department of Biomedical Engineering.  Mentors are Matthew Johnson, Ph.D. & Hubert Lim, Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a clinical problem if left uncontrolled can damage organs in the body, leading to poor quality of life and cardiac events such as a heart attack or stroke. Currently, 26% of adults in Minnesota have hypertension, with over 75% reporting that they take blood pressure medications. Dzifa Kwaku’s research project aims to develop a reversible and adjustable neuromodulation technique to precisely regulate the activity of renal nerves based on a feedback system to control blood pressure by modulating communication between the kidney and the brain. She also will be partnering with CorTec and Heraeus Medical Components for the development of this novel technology to create a nerve cuff system. Successful development of this novel closed loop electroceutical technology can enhance neural target engagement which will lead to improved treatments for hypertensive patients in Minnesota. This technology can also be applied to modulate other organs for the treatment of cardiometabolic diseases.

Implantable Magnetic Microcoils (μcoils) For Cellular-Level Treatment of Neurological Disorders

Renata Saha, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.  Mentor is Jian-Ping Wang, Ph.D., Electrical & Computer Engineering.

In 2021, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 24.6 % of its citizens to suffer from clinical depression and/or anxiety symptoms; another 20, 000 Minnesotans are suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Renata Saha's project aims to develop a device using microcoils (μcoils), which provides magnetic stimulation with the focality of an implantable electrode but works on the physics of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Patients with these μcoil implants would need less frequent implant replacement surgery. Her research promises Minnesotans a better and brighter future in terms of treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, depression, anxiety etc. 

Developing neuromodulation targets for reward pursuit and threat avoidance with human intracranial electrophysiology

Blair Vail, Department of Neurosurgery.  Mentor is David Darrow, Ph.D., Neurosurgery.

As of 2017, 1 in 5 Minnesotans face mental illness each year. With many neuropsychiatric disorders responding poorly to medications and other established treatments, new approaches are desperately needed. Blair Vail's research project investigates the neural mechanisms underlying mental health disorders by identifying the role of specific brain areas in these processes, which can then be targeted by brain stimulation, several forms of which are non-invasive and low risk. This mechanistic approach will improve treatment outcomes for patients living with mental illness and reduce the economic burden on state resources.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Characterizing the pathophysiology across the pallido-cortical network and therapeutic pathway activation in dystonia using directional stimulation 

Stephanie Alberico, Ph.D., Department of Neurology.  Mentor is Joshua Aman, Ph.D., Neurology.

In the United States approximately 300,000 people suffer from dystonia, making it the third most common movement disorder. Dr. Alberico's project aims to examine the intra-operative of neural activity in the motor and sensorimotor circuits as well as determining DBS pathway activation that will be used to determine optimal DBS parameters for treating patients with dystonia. This data will provide a better understanding of the pathophysiology of dystonia and the optimal location within the GPi for the treatment of dystonic symptoms, which may lead to reduced programming time, improved clinical outcomes, and provide a greater quality of life for dystonia patients.

Utilizing Precision Functional Mapping and the FIRMM software for Non-invasive TMS

Cristian Morales-Carrasco, Ph.D., Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain.  Mentor is Damien Fair, Ph.D., Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain & Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Morales-Carrasco's research project will use precision functional mapping, the FIRMM product for motion mitigation and optimal mapping, along with new tools for TMS neuromodulation. Building and improving on non-invasive neuromodulation treatments will improve overall mental health in development and aging and will help future healthcare and the overall health of our society. He is also partnering with Nous Imaging Inc. to optimize and validate the utility of Precision Functional Mapping and FIRMM for brain mapping to guide TMS neuromodulation.

Exploring longitudinal changes in cognitive control, and its LFP correlates, in patients receiving deep brain stimulation for OCD

Sarah Olsen, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.  Mentor is Alik Widge, M.D., Ph.D., Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

In Minnesota alone, hospitalization costs for those experiencing serious mental illness exceed $260 million, not to mention the other economic and societal costs mental illness brings. Dr. Olsen's project investigates how cognitive and neural processes are enhanced over time with deep brain stimulation and how it will lead to improved outcomes for individuals suffering from severe mental illness. Her goal is to identify how this treatment changes the brain, allowing for more precise targeted areas and program DBS treatment for individual patients. This research would bring a more reliable and effective treatment for mental illness by relieving the burden on patients and society.

Examining the prefrontal basis of explore-exploit transitions in humans as a putative neuromodulation target for cognitive flexibility

Xinyuan Yan, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.  Mentor is Alexander Herman, M.D., Ph.D., Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Mental inflexibility is a hallmark of neuropsychiatric disorders affecting Minnesotans. Dr. Yan's project will examine whether neural signatures in the prefrontal cortex of explore-exploit transitions represent potential neuromodulation targets for improving cognitive flexibility with intracranial recordings and stimulation in humans. Her project addresses a major gap in the knowledge needed to design neuromodulation treatments for improving the flexibility of exploration and exploitation behaviors.