TR&D Project 3: Characterizing and Interacting with Cortical Processes

Improved understanding of the brain processes that govern normal or abnormal function, and improved ability to interact with these processes, require the ability to characterize and interact with the complex processes that produce behavior. However, current methods can typically characterize or interact with only simple measures of brain function, but not with the complex processes underlying behaviors. This limitation is a particularly severe problem for imaging technologies that have high spatial and/or temporal resolution, such as electrocorticography (ECoG). If ECoG can be combined with powerful new analytical methods that take full advantage of it, the combination should greatly enhance our understanding of CNS function and our ability to interact with and modify function. It could thereby lead to entirely new kinds of clinical applications. Our preliminary studies show that even relatively simple new methods can yield important new insights and can greatly improve functional mapping prior to brain surgery. Thus, they strongly support this expectation.

To realize this exciting prospect, the central goal of this TR&D project is to develop and validate a coordinated sequence of analytical methods that can use ECoG signals (or other complex measures of brain activity) to characterize and interact with the brain processes responsible for important behaviors such as attention. We will do this by developing analytical algorithms and integrating them into a coordinated four-stage procedure (i.e., feature extraction, modeling the relationships among features, co-registration across individuals, and data reduction) that can detect and represent complex brain signal patterns (Aim 1), and by validating these new methods in scientific and clinical applications (Aim 2).

We expect that this project will produce analysis methods that take full advantage of brain signals that have high spatial and temporal resolution, in particular ECoG. These methods should provide the capacity to characterize, interact with, and/or modify the complex brain processes underlying normal or impaired behaviors. Thus, they should lead to new scientific understanding and to new ways to diagnose and treat a wide range of neurological disorders.