The Neuroscience Anthology project is a part of the INI Internship program. In addition to shadowing Dr. Vokshoor in clinic and in surgery, students in the internship program pick a neuroscience topic and complete an outside research project, giving students a chance to further investigate an area of neuroscience that particularly interests them. Their reports are compiled here to create a working, growing neuroscience curriculum.

Below you can explore what some of our interns have been researching:

Pain, Spinothalamic Pathways and Pain Management

By Emmanuela P François

The International Association for the Study of Pain defined pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage” (Lipton, 1991) and Karpurkar et al., defined it as “an unpleasant emotional experience usually initiated by a noxious stimulus, mediated over a specialized neural network to cortical and subcortical centers where it is interpreted as such” (Kapurkar 2015). These noxious stimuli activate nociceptors, the free nerve endings found in muscles, joints, bones, viscera and skin that detect signals from damaged tissue and indirectly respond to chemicals such as bradykinin, ATP and K+ released from the damaged tissue (Snell, 2010).

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NTD and TCS: Malformations of the Spinal Cord in Children and Adults

By Richard Ma

One of the most common and life-threatening birth defects are known as neural tube defects (NTDs). These defects are categorized by an opening in the spinal cord or brain during development. Additionally, a less common spinal cord disorder also occurs in adults called adult tethered cord syndrome. This may go undiagnosed until adulthood when pain, sensory, and motor problems occur in a patient’s back.

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Phantom Limb Pain Mechanisms

By Symone Lowery-Hughes

“...Those obdurate and sometimes tormenting ghosts of arms and legs lost years or decades before but not forgotten by the brain.”-V.S. Ramachandran

Phantom sensations are sensory perceptions of a missing limb. Phantom limb pain is a neuropathic pain in the amputated limb and mostly reported in limb amputees. Phantom limb pain can be broadly categorized by supraspinal, spinal and peripheral mechanisms [1]. Supraspinal mechanisms include somatosensory cortical reorganization of body image. Spinal reorganization in the dorsal horn occurs after interruption of a peripheral nerve. Peripherally, damaged axonal nerves initiate inflammation and regenerative sprouting causing increased ectopic afferent input. Central and Peripheral mechanisms are thought to be contributing to phantom limb pain for which aggressive pain management is required. The interplay of multiple mechanisms renders phantom limb pain challenging to treat.

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Spine Trauma & Depression: The Intersection of Physiology & Mental Health

By Rawad Rayes

When considering the problems that arise after traumatic spinal cord injuries (SCI), the most commonly addressed issues are numbness and tingling in the extremities, focal weakness, or paralysis, but one of the most persistent and difficult to treat co-morbidities is long term clinical depression. Though there are several possible etiologies for clinical depression in SCI patients, some of the most significant examples include chronic pain syndromes (e.g. Fibromyalgia), and various dysfunctions of the autonomic nervous system which may be referred to under the broader term of dysautonomia. As disparate as these examples may seem at first glance, they each play a role in decreasing an SCI patient’s quality of life, and therefore present a challenge for physicians and researchers to address.

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Navigating the Brain through Magnetoencephalography

By Taylor Schulte

Modern medical technology has provided us with methods to image the human body with extreme detail. For example, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) produces a detailed image of soft tissues in the body by inducing a magnetic field. Electroencephalography (EEG) measures electric impulses in the brain. Combining these concepts gives a unique way to image the complex activity in the brain: magnetoencephalography (MEG), a neuroimaging technique that detects the magnetic fields generated by neurons themselves. MEG is a noninvasive and precise technique that eliminates the need for induced magnetic fields, contrast dyes, or harmful radiation.

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The Biopsychosocial Influences of Chronic Pain on Brain Changes

By Caitlin Donovan, DC

“Biopsychosocial” is a term that has been used in the medical field in association with chronic pain presentations (Jacob, 2003). Chronic pain patients are often seen by various doctors and when treatments are ineffective, the patient is categorized as having biopsychosocial influences on pain. “Bio” refers to the physical aspects of pain such as disc herniation, joint dysfunction, and muscular disturbances. “Psycho” refers to the psychological factors of the patient. Is the patient depressed or do they have any catastrophizing tendencies? “Social” may be in relation to work stability, familial relationships, and social interactions. All three aspects combined demonstrate a wide variety of information for the patient’s brain to process their pain. Through research and advancing technology, the word biopsychosocial is losing its notoriety. Today research is showing a stronger relationship of biopsychosocial aspects having neurological changes with chronic pain.

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Multiple System Atrophy: Abnormal ABCA8 Expression Leads to Formation of New Human Prion

By Alison Hildebrandt 

Referred to as the “Mother Board” by many physicians and scientists, the brain is responsible for much of how our body functions day-to-day. In particular, the autonomic nervous system regulates involuntary body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. The cerebellum also plays a key role in the body’s coordination and ability to balance. Being that these systems play important roles in the functionality of the body from day-to-day, a flaw in these centers causes major disruptions. Neurodegenerative diseases are categorized by the effects that they have on our bodies. One disease of interest is Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a fatal disease causing loss in motor function, abnormal heart rate, increased blood pressure, and body tremors [1].

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Mind and Matter: The Connection between Thinking and Feeling Chronic Pain

By Brittany Smolarski

Perplexing to physicians is the finding that patients with the same type and degree of injury may complain of vastly different levels of pain exacerbation, including pain severity, debilitation, life effects, and relative control. Evidence suggests that this phenomenon is due to psychosocial factors that are compounded by patient’s unrelenting symptoms, an insufficient availability of impactful treatments, and the extensive effects of such pain on physical function (Moriarty, McGuire, & Finn, 2011). These factors affect cognition of pain, thereby impacting pain exacerbation and initiating neurobiochemical changes throughout the Central Nervous System (CNS) that further compound and reinforce pain conditions.

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