Albany Med-Led Brain Mapping Research Showcased at International Workshop


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Albany Med-Led Brain Mapping Research Showcased at International Workshop

November 9, 2011 - Albany , NY

ALBANY, N.Y., November 9, 2011- Some of the world's top scientists, neurologists and neurosurgeons will convene this week at the 3rd Annual International Workshop on Advances in Electrocorticography, hosted by Albany Medical College and the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center. The conference takes place this Thursday and Friday in Washington, D.C.

Physicians and researchers at Albany Med and Wadsworth have pioneered many of the advances in electrocorticography (ECoG), the recording and interpretation of electrical activity from the surface of the brain.

"There is tremendous interest in studying human and animal ECoG recordings to investigate what they can tell us about motor control, language, and memory, as well as abnormal brain functions such as epileptic seizures," said Anthony Ritaccio, M.D., J. Spencer Standish professor of neurology and neurosurgery and director of the epilepsy and human brain mapping program at Albany Medical Center.  "This workshop reviews recent findings in this area from around the world for their potential use in clinical care and for therapies for many neurologic and movement disorders."

For instance, Dr. Ritaccio says recent advances in materials engineering may lead to stable implants to treat epilepsy that would stay on the brain. In addition, scientists are obtaining a better understanding of the brain's abstract cognitive abilities.

"The ability to decode brain function is helping us understand how seemingly abstract concepts like attention and anticipation are highly specific activities in the brain that can actually be measured," said Dr. Ritaccio. For example, he explains, if a subject listens attentively to a familiar song, parts of the brain will continue to "play" that song even after it has stopped.

Understanding this is an essential part of brain computer-interface (BCI) technology, which involves reading brain signals with the goal of translating pure thoughts into action. BCI technology could help those who are paralyzed or disabled communicate or move using only the signals from their brain. Dr. Ritaccio and Gerwin Schalk, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at Albany Medical College and research scientist at the Wadsworth Center, are conducting BCI research funded by a multi-million dollar grant from the United States Department of Defense.
Their  research was recently featured in New York Times Magazine, on CBS Sunday Morning, and in the American Museum of Natural History's special exhibit, "Brain: The Inside Story."
The proceedings from the 2nd annual workshop, held in San Diego in 2010, were published in the current (November) issue of the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.

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