by Prejaas Tewarie, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the European Academy of Neurology for awarding me an EAN Research Fellowship for three months. As a neurologist in training and physicist, it was an honour to work in the computational neuroscience group at UPF Barcelona, led by the renowned Prof. Gustavo Deco. I encountered a great and diverse team of scientists who have created an inspiring and foremost diverse and inclusive atmosphere, where I learned new methodological techniques. Our work was in collaboration with Dr. Jitka Annen from the Coma Science Group, which is led by the renowned Prof. Steven Laureys.
The computational neuroscience group at UPF is an expert centre on computational modelling of large-scale whole brain modelling. It is one of the first centres to apply whole brain modelling to neurological and psychiatric diseases. There has also been a strong ongoing collaboration between the computational neuroscience group at UPF and the Coma Science Group with the aim to gain understanding into (un)consciousness in patients with so-called disorders of consciousness (DOC). Disorders of consciousness refer to a lower and impaired state of consciousness after brain injury. The type of brain injury can differ between patients, including head injury, brain injury after cardiac arrest, stroke etc. It is of utmost importance to understand which patients have the capacity to recover and which patients do not. One of the most useful techniques is the electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures ongoing brain activity.
The goal of my research fellowship was to gain understanding into the recovery of consciousness using EEG recordings in patients with DOC and computational modelling. During this fellowship I performed data analysis and executed computer simulations. EEG measurements from an individual patient were used to estimate biophysical model parameters such as synaptic strength, synaptic time scales and axonal conduction velocity. Synaptic strength refers to the density of connections between neurons; synaptic time scales correspond to duration of opening or closing of ion-channels; while axonal conduction velocity corresponds to the speed of propagation of neuronal activity across the neurons or its axons. Using these techniques, I was able to distinguish patients with good and poor outcomes. Moreover, I was able to implement rules of plasticity which could even further distinguish and understand recovery in patients with good or poor outcomes.
During my stay, I also attended weekly group meetings where I was introduced to new methodology. With this new knowledge and analysis tools, I can even increase my understanding of recovery from coma in patients with DOC. I am very happy to continue this collaboration and to further bridge the gap between computational modelling and coma science. Furthermore, this research fellowship provided me with the opportunity to enjoy the summer in Barcelona, which is a very lovely and vibrant city.