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Intermittent Stimulation of the Nucleus Basalis Improves Working Memory in Aged Monkeys (DSI-SRP)

Posted by on Thursday, September 8, 2022 in Completed Research, DSI-SRP, Engineering, Peabody College, School of Engineering.

This DSI-SRP fellowship funded Sophia Chung to work in the laboratory of Professor Christos Constantinidis in the Department of Biomedical Engineering during the summer of 2022. Sophia is a junior with majors in Cognitive Studies and Neuroscience.

This summer, Sophia used MATLAB to analyze the behavioral data obtained from the working memory task administered to the implanted aged monkeys to determine the efficacy of deep-brain stimulation. She plotted the behavioral data as a function of time before and after the intervention took place, determined the effect of unilateral versus bilateral stimulation, and determined how long the stimulation was effective. Through these analyses, Sophia found that current results show that the stimulation was effective in the majority of thier subjects. Insignificant results of some of the subjects are attributed to misplacement of the electrodes during surgery.

Alzheimer’s Disease and general aging is known to decrease working memory and cognitive function by the degeneration of cholinergic systems. Cholinergic systems are neuronal systems that use the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) for the transmission of information. In primates, a group of neurons known as the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) is the only location in the neocortex where cholinergic neurons are found. Current pharmacological treatments for Alzheimer’s attempt to artificially and temporarily increase acetylcholine levels in the NBM but are limited in efficacy. Alternatively, deep-brain stimulation (DBS) involves a surgical procedure that implants electrodes to stimulate specific areas of the brain and has been shown to be effective in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. Intermittent stimulation targeting the NBM may increase cholinergic activity and hence improve cognitive functions lost in cognitive decline.

Sophia plans to continue collecting and analyzing the data for her research project throughout the upcoming academic year, implementing the data science insights that she gained through DSI-SRP.

In addition to receiving support through a DSI-SRP fellowship, this project was supported and facilitated by the DSI Data Science Team through their regular summer workshops and demo sessions.

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