Vanderbilt Functional Neurosurgery has several vibrant and innovative research projects underway in the fields of neuromodulation, movement disorders, epilepsy, and pain disorders, and we also have an interest in spinal cord disorders and psychiatric disorders. Many of these research efforts are in collaboration with other investigators in Vanderbilt Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS), and the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE).
Much of our epilepsy research is performed in the laboratory of Dario Englot, MD, PhD, director of Functional Neurosurgery and Principal Investigator of the Brain Imaging and Electrophysiology Network (BIEN) Lab. The BIEN lab integrates human neuroimaging and electrophysiology techniques to study brain networks in epilepsy, other neurological diseases, and normal brain states. One major focus of the lab is to understand the complex network perturbations in patients with epilepsy, by relating network changes to neurocognitive problems, disease characteristics, and changes in vigilance in this disabling disease. Multimodal data from human intracranial EEG, functional MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, and other tools are utilized to evaluate resting-state, seizure-related, and task-based paradigms. Other interests of the lab include the effects of brain surgery and neurostimulation on brain networks in epilepsy patients, and whether functional and structural connectivity patterns may change after intervention. Finally, surgical outcomes in functional neurosurgery, including deep brain stimulation, procedures for pain disorders, and epilepsy, are also being investigated in our clinical studies.
Movement Disorder Research
The lab of Sarah Bick, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, uses neurophysiology and imaging techniques to study the neural networks underlying movement disorders, with a particular focus on nonmotor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease. We are using human intracranial neural recordings, functional MRI, and PET to better understand how striatal dopamine depletion alters activity in corticostriatal networks and leads to specific nonmotor symptoms such as cognitive impairment. Another focus of the lab is the use of human intracranial recordings to better understand the neurophysiology of normal emotional and cognitive processes and how these malfunction in psychiatric disorders. Improved understanding of the neural signaling underlying cognitive and emotional processes will allow for the development of novel neuromodulation techniques for disorders of these processes in the future.
In addition, we have several projects underway related to image-guided surgery and using improved image registration and segmentation techniques to improve DBS and other functional neurosurgery procedures. These are in collaboration with principal investigator Benoit Dawant, PhD who leads both the Medical Image Processing (MIP) Laboratory at Vanderbilt, as well as the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE).
Pain Disorder and Spinal Cord Research
We also have active research efforts related to pain disorders and understanding the spinal cord. Recently, our group has published several studies related to outcomes after microvascular decompression for drug resistant trigeminal neuralgia. In addition, we have research projects related to spinal cord imaging in collaboration with the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS).