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:

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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Neurological Variations in Cultural Meditative Practices

By Maria C. Gable

Meditation originated from ancient eastern practices and has been part of its culture for 2,500 years (Taylor, Daneault, Grant, Scavone, Breton, Roffe-Vidal, ... & Beauregard, 2012; Otani, 2003).  Meditation was used to facilitate enlightenment as a way of overcoming hardship, pain, stress, and sorrow (Otani, 2003).  It is a mental process that relaxes the individual and induces multiple physiologic responses (Lazar, Bush, Gollub, Fricchione, Khalsa, & Benson, 2000).  Meditation alters both cognitive and sensory dimensions of an individual’s subjective experience (Zeidan, Martucci, Kraft, Gordon, McHaffie, & Coghill, 2011).

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Possibilities for Shock Absorption in Disc Prostheses

By John Velasquez

Many in medicine believe the spine to be the center of bodily wellness, and health. Naturally, as the center of all mechanics of the body, it is subject to intense physical stress. Major improvements have been made in stabilizing the spine and resolving herniated or degenerative intervertebral disks. Before, such medical issues would require fusion, but would entail a total loss of function of the joint by essentially making one bone out of what used to be two (Spinehealth). Now, doctors can preserve the natural flexibility of the spine with new prostheses such as the prodisk variety. These designs make an excellent mimicry of the natural motion of vertebral joints, as do other prostheses (Synthes Inc.), however they fall short in replicating one crucial role that intervertebral disks play. In addition to acting as a ligament for a vertebral joint, discs act as necessary shock absorbers, protecting the network of bone and nerves from major traumas and force.

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Making Waves with Neurofeedback

By Johny Tran

Neurofeedback (NFB) treatment seems like part of a plot derived from a science fiction film. Simply by playing a video game, patients are able to self-regulate and improve their brain function. Using either EEG or fMRI NFB, subjects are monitored and presented with their brain activity in the form of a game, so that they are able to alter their brain activity towards more desired levels. With the non-invasive approach of NFB, many patients have been able treat their mental disorders with cognitive therapy and brain enhancement (Zotev, Phillips, Yuan, Misaki, & Bodurka, 2014). NFB is a very real concept, and is making waves in the world of neuroscience.

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