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Tapping the brain orchestra
Date:12/12/2011

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) and Forschungszentrum Jlich in Germany have developed a new method for detailed analyses of electrical activity in the brain. The method, recently published in Neuron, can help doctors and researchers to better interpret brain cell signals. In turn, this may lead to considerable steps forward in terms of interpreting for example EEG measurements, making diagnoses and treatment of various brain illnesses.

Researchers and doctors have been measuring and interpreting electrical activity generated by brain cells since 1875. Doctors have over the years acquired considerable practical skills in relating signal shapes to different brain illnesses such as epilepsy. However, doctors have so far had little knowledge on how these signals are formed in the network of nerve cells.

"Based on methods from physics, mathematics and informatics, as well as computational power from the Stallo supercomputer in Troms, we have developed detailed mathematical models revealing the connection between nerve cell activity and the electrical signal recorded by an electrode," says Professor Gaute Einevoll at the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Technology (IMT) at UMB.

Microphone in a crowd

The problem of interpreting electrical signals measured by electrodes in the brain is similar to that of interpreting sound signals measures by a microphone in a crowd of people. Just like people sometimes all talk at once, nerve cells are also sending signals "on top of each other".

The electrode records the sounds from the whole orchestra of nerve cells surrounding it and there are numerous contributors. One cubic millimetre can contain as many as 100,000 nerve cells.

Treble and bass

Similar to bass and treble in a soundtrack, high and low frequency electrical signals are distinguished in the brain.

"This project has focused on the bass - the low frequency signals called "loc
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Contact: Professor Gaute Einevoll
gaute.einevoll@umb.no
47-951-24536
Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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