New Imaging Technique Uses Pre-Placed Electrodes for Electrocorticographic Mapping

New Imaging Technique Uses Pre-Placed Electrodes for Electrocorticographic Mapping

Neuroimaging studies of human cognitive, sensory, and motor processes are usually based on noninvasive techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography or functional magnetic-resonance imaging. These techniques have either inherently low temporal or low spatial resolution, and suffer from low signal-to-noise ratio and/or poor high-frequency sensitivity. Thus, they are suboptimal for exploring the short-lived spatio-temporal dynamics of many of the underlying brain processes. In contrast, the invasive technique of electrocorticography (ECoG) provides brain signals that have an exceptionally high signal-to-noise ratio, less susceptibility to artifacts than EEG, and a high spatial and temporal resolution (i.e.,

At the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York, clinical monitoring is implemented around the clock using a 192-channel Nihon-Kohden Neurofax monitoring system. Research recordings are made in collaboration with the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health in Albany. Signals from the ECoG electrodes are fed simultaneously to the research and the clinical systems via splitter connectors. To ensure that the clinical and research systems do not interfere with each other, the two systems typically use separate grounds. In fact, an epidural strip of electrodes is sometimes implanted to provide a ground for the clinical system. Whether research or clinical recording system, the grounding electrode is chosen to be distant from the predicted epileptic focus and from cortical areas of interest for the research. Our research system consists of eight synchronized 16-channel g.USBamp amplifier/digitizer units (g.tec, Graz, Austria). These were chosen because they are safety-rated and FDA-approved for invasive recordings, they have a very low noise-floor in the high-frequency range in which the signals of interest are found, and they come with an SDK that allows them to be integrated with custom-written research software. In order to capture the high-gamma signal accurately, we acquire signals at 1200Hz sampling rate-considerably higher than that of the typical EEG experiment or that of many clinical monitoring systems. A built-in low-pass filter automatically prevents aliasing of signals higher than the digitizer can capture. The patient’s eye gaze is tracked using a monitor with a built-in Tobii T-60 eye-tracking system (Tobii Tech., Stockholm, Sweden). Additional accessories such as joystick, bluetooth Wiimote (Nintendo Co.), data-glove (5th Dimension Technologies), keyboard, microphone, headphones, or video camera are connected depending on the requirements of the particular experiment.

Data collection, stimulus presentation, synchronization with the different input/output accessories, and real-time analysis and visualization are accomplished using our BCI2000 software8,9. BCI2000 is a freely available general-purpose software system for real-time biosignal data acquisition, processing and feedback. It includes an array of pre-built modules that can be flexibly configured for many different purposes, and that can be extended by researchers’ own code in C++, MATLAB or Python. BCI2000 consists of four modules that communicate with each other via a network-capable protocol: a Source module that handles the acquisition of brain signals from one of 19 different hardware systems from different manufacturers; a Signal Processing module that extracts relevant ECoG features and translates them into output signals; an Application module that delivers stimuli and feedback to the subject; and the Operator module that provides a graphical interface to the investigator.

A number of different experiments may be conducted with any given patient. The priority of experiments will be determined by the location of the particular patient’s electrodes. However, we usually begin our experimentation using the SIGFRIED (SIGnal modeling For Realtime Identification and Event Detection) mapping method, which detects and displays significant task-related activity in real time. The resulting functional map allows us to further tailor subsequent experimental protocols and may also prove as a useful starting point for traditional mapping by electrocortical stimulation (ECS).

Although ECS mapping remains the gold standard for predicting the clinical outcome of resection, the process of ECS mapping is time consuming and also has other problems, such as after-discharges or seizures. Thus, a passive functional mapping technique may prove valuable in providing an initial estimate of the locus of eloquent cortex, which may then be confirmed and refined by ECS. The results from our passive SIGFRIED mapping technique have been shown to exhibit substantial concurrence with the results derived using ECS mapping10.

The protocol described in this paper establishes a general methodology for gathering human ECoG data, before proceeding to illustrate how experiments can be initiated using the BCI2000 software platform. Finally, as a specific example, we describe how to perform passive functional mapping using the BCI2000-based SIGFRIED system.

A new video article in JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, describes a novel procedure to monitor brain function and aid in functional mapping of patients with diseases such as epilepsy. This procedure illustrates the use of pre-placed electrodes for cortical mapping in the brains of patients who are undergoing surgery to minimize the frequency of seizures. This technique, while invasive, provides real-time analysis of brain function at a much higher resolution than current technologies.

Typically, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) are used in neuroimaging studies but these techniques suffer from low temporal and spatial resolution. By using electrodes implanted in the brain of an epileptic patient already undergoing treatment, scientists can now image the brain with a much higher spatial resolution, lower signal interference, and a higher temporal resolution than fMRI or EEG.

The leading author of the study, Dr. Gerwin Schalk, from the New York State Department of Health and Albany Medical College, states, “Essentially, we have created a new imaging technique. Our procedure is innovative because it is prospective, meaning, it can image brain function as it occurs. Further, it does not require an expert to derive meaningful information concerning brain function.” He also notes that it was crucial for this procedure to be demonstrated in a video format. “The procedure is a very visual process. The ancillary information such as the spatial relationships of different components, the set-up of the hospital room, and the set-up of the equipment itself cannot be represented in a typical print article. The video capacities of JoVE were an excellent vehicle to demonstrate both the general set-up and the specific implementation of the mapping system.”

By relying on an epileptic patient’s neural implants, scientists gain an unprecedented insight into the brain’s function. Dr. Schalk’s procedure provides a technological advancement that can be applied in many ways, including stroke patient monitoring and rehabilitation, signal mapping and transduction for movement of prosthetic limbs, and enhancement of communication in individuals with paralysis of the vocal musculature. The JoVE video article provides a comprehensive demonstration of the new technique, from mapping the electrical implants to interpreting the tests in real time. JoVE editor Dr. Claire Standen emphasizes, “The new imaging technique demonstrated in this article is very important. There is a definite need for better, more accurate, imaging to monitor brain function. This technique can be applied to a wide range of clinical areas within the Neuroscience field.” The article can be found here:

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