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:

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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Environmental Enrichment: An Alternative Therapy for Neurodegenerative Diseases

By Sanket Rege

Environmental enrichment (EE) is the effect of enhanced sensory, motor, and cognitive stimulation on the neural circuitry of the brain. The evidence for this has been established by studies with enriched housing conditions for rodents and its effects on their brains in comparison to those in normal housing conditions. The idea behind the experimental paradigm is that rodents exposed to an enriched environment have enhanced stimulation of their sensory, motor, and cognitive systems and thus have a more refined neural circuitry. The result is a modified progression of cognitive decline associated with aging and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Enrichment studies have been conducted on mouse models of AD to determine its precise cellular and molecular effects on disease pathology. A significant positive effect would mean a potential for new strategies in therapeutic research.

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The Future of Football: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Athletes

By Andrea Binley

Football is the great American pastime. Large numbers of athletes at the youth, high school, and college levels participate in organized football. At the professional level, the sport generates a huge amount of media attention, interest, and revenue. In recent years, however, warnings about the brain injury risks inherent in football have come from retired players, coaches, and medical professionals, along with increased public awareness about the danger of repeated head trauma.

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CRPS: From Past to Present

By Severija Saladziute

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a debilitating condition characterized by non-dermatomal patterns of pain, sensory abnormalities, autonomic dysfunction, and motor changes. It can be differentiated into two  types based on the absence (CRPS I) or presence (CRPS II) of detectable nerve trauma, yet the distinction is not often made in scientific literature due to limited clinical differences [1].

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Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) for the Treatment of Intracranial Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure

By Lauren Weiss

Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) was discovered in the 1950’s to be used as a useful treatment for a myriad of conditions. First discovered in its industrial applications, this essay will examine its properties and promise for treating various ailments including intracranial hypertension. Being a small molecule, slightly larger than water, DMSO penetrates into the skin almost immediately, making it useful as an agent to improve the transport of drugs deeper into targeted tissues.

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