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Biomedical Functional Imaging and Neuroengineering Laboratory

College of Science & Engineering > Dept. of Biomedical Engineering

Introduction

Major research activities in our laboratory include the development of innovative methodologies for noninvasive imaging of the brain and the heart that allows assessment of functional status of the organ systems, investigation of functions and dysfunctions of the brain and heart using the imaging methods, development of techniques to image electrical properties of tissues, and brain-computer interface research for neural prosthetics and other applications.

The importance of determining the functional status of the brain is self-evident, yet establishing a high-resolution spatio-temporal imaging modality remains a challenging research field. Innovative engineering advancements are essential to achieve such a goal. Brain activation is a spatio-temporally-distributed process. Recent advances in medical imaging technology, especially functional MRI, have greatly increased our ability to image brain functions with high spatial resolution. Electrophysiological recordings, on the other hand, offer millisecond temporal resolution in detecting and characterizing brain activity. Of innovation is the development of electrophysiological neuroimaging which greatly enhances the spatial resolution of EEG, resulting in an economic and convenient means for cognitive neuroscience research and applications to diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases. Multimodal functional neuroimaging provides high resolution in both space and time, by integrating functional MRI and electrophysiological neuroimaging.

Cardiac arrhythmia is a significant public health problem. The laboratory is also developing innovative imaging methods to image and locate the origin and mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmia. Of particular interest is the development and validation of three-dimensional cardiac electrical tomography which provides information with regard to cardiac activation and repolarization within the three-dimensional myocardium. New techniques are being developed to estimate spatio-temporal distributions of current density, activation time, and transmembrane potential within the three-dimensional myocardium, from the body surface electrocardiograms or from intracavitary recordings. The ultimate goal is to develop cardiac functional imaging techniques which can image and localize sites of arrhythmogenesis and activation pattern used to study the mechanisms of arrhythmia.

Neural interfacing and prosthetics have shown promises to “read” the minds of the individuals and translate these thoughts into actions performed via a computer, which aims at restoring function in paralytics by providing the brain with new output pathways. Basic research is being conducted in our laboratory to develop novel non-invasive brain-computer interface systems, which can perform complex tasks reliably and efficiently. Functional neuroimaging approaches are also used to elucidate the neuroscience mechanisms underlying brain-computer interface applications, and for enhancing the performance of brain-computer interface.

In addition to source imaging, we are also pursuing imaging of electrical properties of biological tissues, in particular electrical impedance. Electrical properties of tissues are important for accurate source imaging and also contains useful information for clinical diagnosis. For example, cancerous tissues exhibit about 3 times lower electrical impedance than normal tissue. The laboratory has proposed and developed a novel approach call Magnetoacoustic Tomography with Magnetic Induction, by integrating magnetism and ultrasound, for high resolution electrical impedance imaging. Potential applications include early detection of breast cancer and other cancers.