Skip to main content

Vanderbilt "Day of Light" Symposium



Ernst Bamberg speaker Ernst Bamberg -- Max Planck Institute of Biophysics

Talk:  Rhodopsin Based Optogenetics: Basics, Application, Chances

The focus of the research the emeritus group is the functional analysis of electrogenic membrane proteins. Transporters, ion pumps as well as ion channels are under investigation. Electrical, electrophysiological and spectroscopic methods are applied. The methodological spectrum is completed by protein purification and molecular biology approaches In order to obtain a detailed view of the transport across the membrane kinetic methods are applied to study transport and conformational dynamics of the proteins in situ and in vitro.

The main topic is the functional and structural analysis of microbial rhodopsins, which can be used as optogenetic tools. The most prominent player within this class of proteins is channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2). ChR2 was described by us as the first light-gated channel, which became a long sought tool in neurobiology, because its insertion in electrically excitable cells(neurons, muscle cells) yields the depolarization thereby the activation of the cells. Expression of ChR2 together with light-activated rhodopsin like hyperpolarizing ion pumps, allows the multimodal control of the cells in culture as well as in living animals simply by light with high spatiotemporal resolution in a minimally invasive manner. ChR2 and our newly developed analogues are used worldwide for basic neurobiological research, for biomedical applications and for drug discovery as well.

David Boas speaker David Boas -- Boston University

Talk:  Measuring Cerebral Blood Flow with Speckle Dynamics

David Boas, Ph.D. (Professor, Biomedical Engineering) is Director of the Neurophotonics Center at Boston University. He received his BS in Physics at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and PhD in Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. During his academic career, he has supervised 44 students and post-doctoral fellows, and he has published over 250 papers that have received over 30,000 citations and an h-index of 101. He is the founding President of the Society for Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy and founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal Neurophotonics published by SPIE. Dr. Boas was awarded the Britton Chance Award in Biomedical Optics in 2016 for his development of several novel, high-impact biomedical optical technologies in the neurosciences, as well as following through with impactful application studies, and fostering the widespread adoption of these technologies. He was elected a Fellow of AIMBE, SPIE, and OSA in 2017.

As Director of the Neurophotonics Center, he facilitates the development and application of novel optical methods to address a broad range of neuroscience questions from basic science to clinical translation. His own research efforts focus on neurovascular coupling, cerebral oxygen delivery and consumption, functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), and physiological modeling. Studies are done in rodents and humans, invasively and non-invasively, microscopically and macroscopically, providing a powerful ability to translate findings from animals to humans, and conversely to address in animals questions raised during human studies. One example of this that will tie together many of Dr. Boas’ activities is studying functional brain recovery in survivors of stroke. Human neuroimaging by fMRI and fNIRS measures hemodynamic functional recovery but it is not known if neuro-vascular coupling differs in these patients compared to healthy subjects. Animal studies will answer this question enabling more quantitative interpretation of the human neuroimaging studies.

Patrick Degenaar speaker Patrick Degenaar -- Newcastle University

Talk:  Towards clinical optogenetic neuroprosthetics

Dr. Degenaar is a reader in biomedical engineering and came to Newcastle in 2010 to develop world class collaborations between Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Newcastle University and the Institute of Neuroscience. He has a BSc (1st class) and MRes in Applied Physics from Liverpool University, and a PhD in Bioimaging from the Japan Advanced Institute for Science and Technology. After some time in the software industry, he did two post-doctoral projects at Imperial College before getting an RCUK fellowship in 2005. From 2005-2010 he was a lecturer and then senior lecturer at Imperial College, before coming to Newcastle. He has had numerous research awards and published numerous papers in the key journals in the biomedical field.

At the heart of these efforts is his pioneering use of CMOS-micro-LED optoelectronics in combination with optogenetic gene therapy solutions. These will lead to highly advanced forms of prosthetic intervention not previously possible. This has led to a number of highly cited papers in key biomedical engineering journals. Furthermore, he has explored impact through patient trials and commercial translation.

To achieve his aims he has been part of a number of large research consortia. Between 2010-2014, he coordinated the FP7 OptoNeuro project. More recently, he is the engineering team leader on the £10M CANDO project to develop a next-generation prosthesis for epilepsy. 

Elizabeth Hillman speaker Elizabeth Hillman -- Columbia University

Talk:  High-speed optical imaging and microscopy of whole-brain activity

Our research focuses on capturing functional information about living tissues using optical techniques. A major theme of our lab is in-vivo neuroimaging, in particular examination of the relationship between blood flow changes in the brain and underlying neuronal activity. This work has led us to develop a range of advanced in-vivo imaging technologies including laminar optical tomography and hyperspectral two-photon microscopy. We are exploring additional applications for these technologies including clinical and pre-clinical imaging of living skin. We are also developing techniques for non-invasive 'molecular imaging' of small animals to allow improved studies of disease and development of new treatments and drugs. The sections below provide more details about our projects and imaging technologies.

Pavel Osten speaker Pavel Osten -- Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Talk:  Mapping the brain at cellular resolution: region and gender-specific differences

Pavel Osten’s lab works on identification and analysis of brain regions, neural circuits, and connectivity pathways that are disrupted in genetic mouse models of autism and schizophrenia. Osten hypothesizes that (1) systematic comparison of multiple genetic mouse models will allow determination of overlaps in pathology—neural circuit endophenotypes—responsible for the manifestation of neuropsychiatric disorders and (2) neural circuit-based classification of autism and schizophrenia will provide key circuit targets for detailed mechanistic studies and therapeutic development. Osten and colleagues have developed the first systematic approach to the study of neural circuits in mouse models of psychiatric diseases, based on a pipeline of anatomical and functional methods for analysis of mouse brain circuits. An important part of this pipeline is high-throughput microscopy for whole-mouse brain imaging, called serial two-photon (STP) tomography. This year, they used this method to describe the first whole-brain activation map representing social behavior in normal mice. They are currently focusing on using this approach to study brain activation changes in two mouse models of autism: the 16p11.2 df/+ mouse model, which shows an increased propensity to seizures and hyperactivity, and the CNTNAP2 knockout mouse model, which shows abnormal social behavior.

Ashwini Sharan speaker Ashwini Sharan -- Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University

Talk:  Lasers in Neurosurgery – Current Techniques and Unmet Needs

Dr. Ashwini Sharan is currently a Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and the Department of Neurology at Jefferson Medical College and Thomas Jefferson University.

At Thomas Jefferson University, Dr. Sharan provides unique expertise in deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, and dystonia. His expertise additionally includes intrathecal pump implantation for spasticity, cortical and spinal cord stimulation for chronic pain disorders, and vagal nerve stimulation for epilepsy and depression. His practice is heavily biased towards Functional neurosurgery, essentially a new field in which disorders in which the neural circuit is effected but now can be treated with electrical stimulator and pacemakers. Additionally, at Thomas Jefferson University, he leads the Surgical Epilepsy program in which they treat with surgery approximately 100 patients per year achieving cures in a majority of their patients. In 2004, he was featured in Glamour magazine for Epilepsy surgery. (How Far Would you go to Save your Health, August 2004) Otherwise, his clinical practice is balanced with complex spinal surgery procedures. He performs approximately 200 spinal operations for spinal trauma, spinal cord tumors, metastatic carcinoma, infections, and degenerative disorders.

Dr. Sharan has been awarded the William H. Sweet Young Investigator Award sponsored by Medtronic, Inc. (one of the largest manufacturers of Pace-makers and other specialized instruments). This award is given for the best presentation to an investigator within 5 years of completion of residency training at the AANS Annual Meeting. The title of the presentation was "MRI and Spinal Cord Stimulation: An Experimental Safety Study" (refer to That particular research has even resulted in FDA labeling changes for Spinal Cord Stimulation devices allowing those patients to now obtain MR imaging of their brains under certain circumstances.

As well, Dr. Sharan is avidly working toward improving the delivery of neurosurgical care. He has multiple patents and has been an integral participant in the development of a tool with the aid of Endius (now owned by Zimmer spine) which allows access of the cervical spine with smaller incisions and less muscle destruction. He sits on the scientific Advisory Board of Autonomic Technologies Incorporated and Sierra Neuropharmaceuticals. The latter company is working on developing novel approached for the treatment of epilepsy, depression, and schizophrenia via delivery of drug directly into the brain.

Michael-Jenkins-Symposium19-Speaker Michael Jenkins -- Case Western Reserve University

Talk:  Infrared neuromodulation (IRN)

Neural engineering and rehabilitation research applies neuroscience and engineering methods to analyze central and peripheral nervous system function and to design clinical solutions for neurological disorders or injury. Through the application of basic science and engineering techniques, neural engineers develop methods to record from and exert control over the nervous system and associated organ systems. Primary faculty, associated faculty, research associates, and students work in three national centers of education and research in neural engineering and rehabilitation. Our research teams collaborate with four local major medical facilities: MetroHealth Medical Center, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland Clinic, and The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. Neural engineering facilities allow researchers to take ideas from basic science through experimental testing and to clinical deployment. Neural engineering research teams are funded by commercial partnerships and grants, including those from the State of Ohio, National Institutes of Health, and other federal sources. Below are a few examples of the ongoing research and applications in neural engineering and rehabilitation.