Katrin Amunts is the Scientific Research Director of the Human Brain Project and leads two centers at Forschungszentrum Jülich and the University Hospital Düsseldorf. With her internationally recognized work that includes the BigBrain and JuBrain projects and use of novel methodology such as polarized light imaging, she follows the footsteps of famous anatomists of the past, such as Cecile and Oskar Vogt, name givers of her institute.
We talk about the relevance of anatomical models and ultra-high-definition atlases for successful deep brain stimulation procedures, the impact of open data sharing and upcoming advances in the field of whole brain anatomy.
More episodes from "Stimulating Brains"
#44 Jennifer Thomas & Michael Stanley - The creative spark: Switching on the inner artist in the face of Parkinson's Disease
1:58:43In this conversation with Jennifer ('Niffy') Thomas and Dr. Michael Stanley, we talk about how Niffy became an artist after undergoing DBS surgery to treat her early onset Parkinson's Disease. Dr. Michael Stanley is a cognitive neurologist at the Brigham & Women's Hospital and has special interest in art and the brain: He studies how lesions or other neurological conditions can lead to cessation of artistic behavior or how they can change the artistic style of artists. When he read about Niffy's case, he reached out to her and the two had multiple conversations about it. In preparation to this conversation, we were in contact with Dr. Paul Krack (Bern) who has studied and published upon similar cases in which DBS surgery changed or initiated artistic behavior. There is so much we can learn from Niffy and I am very grateful for her taking the time to share her story: Indeed, in her youth, Niffy did not enjoy art class at school and never had a particular interest in painting. She expressed herself differently: Via athletic competition or by playing the piano. But after coming home from DBS surgery in 2019, all of a sudden, there was this imminent urge – to paint...
#43 Vanessa Milanese - Bridging Anatomy and Neurosurgery: A Deep Dive into White Matter Dissections and Legacy of Dr. Al Rhoton
1:28:45In this conversation with Dr. Vanessa Milanese, we cover the importance of anatomy in neurosurgery and explore her intriguing work in both fields – and how they cross-informed one another. Vanessa is a functional neurosurgeon at A Beneficencia Portuguesa Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil and holds an adjunct assistant professorship of neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. We talk about her stellar work in combining her neurosurgical activity with anatomical work – which involves dissections of the white matter of postmortem brains using the Klingler’s method. We will talk about the rare community of neurosurgeons involved in similar activities, world-wide and the big influence Dr. Al Rhoton had on the field and on Vanessa’s career. We thoroughly enjoyed this conversation and learned a lot – and we hope you will enjoy it as much as we did! Thank you so much for tuning in!
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#42: Kullervo Hynynen – A conversation with the inventor of MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound
1:14:45In this episode, we sit down with Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, a key figure in biomedical ultrasound and image-guided therapeutics. Starting from his academic roots at the University of Aberdeen to his current roles at the Sunnybrook Research Institute and the University of Toronto, Dr. Hynynen has played an instrumental role in advancing medical imaging. He has been at the forefront of investigating the use of focused ultrasound for various medical procedures such as non-invasive surgery, vascular surgery, targeted drug delivery, and gene therapy. Without his groundbreaking contributions, the medical field might not possess the capability to execute MR-guided focused ultrasound surgeries today. For those curious about the specifics of his contributions, the Focused Ultrasound Society has a comprehensive website detailing milestones in the therapy's development, where Dr. Hynynen's name frequently appears. Dr. Hynynen leads an extensive group at Sunnybrook, comprising approximately 50 to 100 members. These professionals span across the vast spectrum of focused ultrasound applications in both animals and humans.
#41: Christelle Baunez – The role of the subthalamic nucleus in brain stimulation
2:00:58In this intriguing dialogue with Dr. Christelle Baunez, a neurobiologist at Aix-Marseille University, we discuss a mysterious and small structure, the subthalamic nucleus. Christelle is known as the STN woman in France, due to her dedication to study this structure over the years. Christelle is a pioneer in the side effects related to STN stimulation in Parkinson Disease patients. Now, she is working towards understanding how STN stimulation can help people with addiction. We cover, with an historical perspective how STN became an interesting brain stimulation target, their advantages and disadvantages of its stimulation, side effects related, its connectivity and current and future applications. In addition, we discuss some of her recent fully unpublish experiments, like STN stimulation in cocaine addicted macaques and beyond. We also cover Christelle’s advocacy for animal research and its important role to push the boundaries of neuroscience. Finally, Christelle shares her passion for photography and how STN should be included in the reward circuit. This conversation was an incredible learning experience for me, and I believe it will be for you too. Thank you so much for tuning in – for this round episode number 41 of stimulating brains!
#40: Casey Halpern – Novel indications and approaches to invasive neuromodulation and neuroscience
1:55:20In this engaging conversation with Casey Halpern, a functional neurosurgeon at Penn Medicine. Casey is a pioneer in both deep brain stimulation and focused ultrasound and with his lab has recently had some fantastic breakthroughs, especially, but not exclusively in the field of loss-of-control eating in severe obesity. We cover a lot of ground from optogenetics at Stanford, basic science research about the nucleus accumbens and translation of findings into patients, serendipitous discoveries in humans, to stereo-EEG procedures in patients with epilepsy. We discuss what made his recent Nature paper about an appetite mediating circuit in the human hippocampus so special, how he took his findings from 2013 in rodent work – across several stages – into a human clinical trial for eating disorders. We also cover Casey’s ongoing trial in DBS for OCD, where he adopts an approach to probe the brain with multiple electrodes to then identify optimal target areas for each individual patient – in line with other current advances of psychiatric neurosurgery. We also talk about MR guided focused ultrasound and the potential future of this treatment option in a tight relationship with DBS. As always, I learned a lot in this conversation and I hope you find it as enjoyable as I did. Thank you so much for tuning in – for this round episode number 40 of stimulating brains!
#39: Nico Dosenbach – A BOLD Challenge to Penfield’s Homunculus based on resting-state fMRI
2:06:32In this engaging conversation with Dr. Nico Dosenbach, a clinician-scientist at Washington University, we dive into his personal journey from the Black Forest in Germany to his adventures in the US. Nico generously shared insights into his educational and career path, recounting his experiences studying biochemistry in New York City, making the decision to pursue an MD/PhD, and eventually specializing in pediatric neurology. The conversation delved into his early days as a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, during the pioneering early days of resting-state fMRI. Nico also discussed the significance of data collected as part of the Midnight Scan Club. This work collected hours worth of data from ten individuals using comparably long and repeated fMRI scans and led to most of the seminal work of the Dosenbach lab. As Nico lays out, the reason is intriguing: If one sees an unexpected finding on high quality data, one would not as easily attribute it to noise. More likely, one would follow up and try to understand the finding better – as was done in numerous of Nico's papers. Nico tells us how practical it is to wear a pink cast around ones dominant arm for a while – and why one would want to do such a thing as an fMRI researcher. Finally, we talk to Nico about two of his recent groundbreaking papers which were both published in Nature and how it came about that he challenged a long-standing "truth" in neuroscience: The model of the motor homunculus established by Wilder Penfield.
#38: Espen Dietrichs – about Carl Sem-Jacobsen, the true inventor of subthalamic DBS in Norway
50:59In this conversation with Espen Dietrichs, we talk about the work of Carl Wilhelm Sem-Jacobsen, who almost certainly applied deep brain stimulation to the subthalamic nucleus chronically over weeks in 1958. Notably, this was ~40 years before the application of subthalamic DBS in Grenoble by the team of Alim Louis Benabid & Pierre Pollak (episode 4) following the pioneering animal work by Hagai Bergman (episode 17) and Abdelhamid Benazzouz who had demonstrated lesioning and DBS to the subthalamic nucleus had dramatic effects on cardinal motor symptoms in Parkinson's. Sem-Jacobsen implanted a series of electrodes into the basal ganglia of the brain of Parkinson's Disease patients starting in 1958, and in some electrodes labeled "near nucl. ruber" demonstrated dramatic effects on both tremor and bradykinesia. Espen Dietrichs spent many years researching this work and according to him, Sem-Jacobsen was "an inventor, not so much a scientist", so little was published. He showed a compelling film at the neurological convention in Oslo 1962, however – which had been lost for a long time. After years of investigation, Prof. Dietrichs could recover the film and a total of 9 boxes of material in a barn owned by the Sem-Jacobsen family in rural Norway. He takes us on this journey of investigation and scientific history, and also shares how Sem-Jacobsen built an ECG device that recorded the activity of Neill Armstrong's heart while taking the first steps on the moon, as well as an EEG device that measured brain activity of jet pilots and divers. We touch on conspiracy theories of "mind control", personal links to the director of the CIA and a hearing committee, that ultimately cleared the name of Carl Sem-Jacobsen long after his death.
#37: Jon Nelson – DBS for Depression saved my life: Defying Stigma in Mental Health
1:50:41In this compelling episode we delve into the inspiring story of Jon Nelson, a remarkable individual who has braved the depths of mental illness and emerged as a beacon of resilience and hope. In a heartfelt conversation with Jon, he shares his lived experience with DBS device as a transformative treatment for mental illness. Against the backdrop of prevailing stigma surrounding mental health, Jon's journey unfolds as he not only navigates the challenges of his condition but also becomes an ardent advocate for change. Through Jon's experiences and storytelling, we hope to provide a perspective on the power of DBS in addressing mental health issues and breaking down societal barriers. Tune in as we explore Jon's commitment to dispelling stigma, his unwavering determination to share his insights, and his profound impact on raising awareness about the potential of DBS in treating mental health disorders. This episode challenges preconceptions, celebrates triumphs, and sheds light on the extraordinary synergy between personal experiences and scientific advancements.
#36: Béchir Jarraya & Jordy Tasserie – Unlocking Consciousness: Neuromodulation, Neurofeedback, and the Future of Brain Science
1:43:39In this episode, we delve into the groundbreaking work of the Neuromodulation Lab at the NeuroSpin center, led by Dr. Béchir Jarraya. The lab’s mission is to evaluate brain modulation using pharmacological agents and electrical neurostimulation. Combining functional MRI with new neuromodulation techniques, they train awake macaques, with a unique mock-MRI process, to study consciousness-related domains. Their activities encompass MRI, electrophysiology, and 3-photon imaging to unlock the mysteries of consciousness.
#35: Mark Richardson – Surfing the Frontiers of Functional Neurosurgery: From Brain Modulation to Patient Engagement
1:13:04In this episode, we interviewed Dr. Mark Richardson, an expert in functional neurosurgery and the Director of the Brain Modulation Lab at MGH Neurosurgery. He shared insights into his career and the lab's focus on improving surgical treatments for epilepsy, movement disorders, and psychiatric diseases through a systems neuroscience approach. We discussed closed-loop deep brain stimulation in epilepsy, incision-less approaches like FUS and LITT, and the role of different nuclei in generalized epilepsy. We also explored speech and language research, therapeutic applications of DBS, olfaction studies, and patient engagement in research trials. Join us to discover the frontiers of neurosurgery and the groundbreaking work of the Brain Modulation Lab.