Using high density multielectrode arrays to investigate brain circuits at the mezoscopic level

For the last two decades neuroscience research has mainly focused on two extreme levels of complexity: the microscopic level, pertaining to molecules, genes, etc., and the macroscopic level, referring to large-scale brain areas and their interactions. In contrast, the intermediate or "mezoscopic" level of complexity, encompassing brain circuits with hundreds and thousands of neurons, have been much less explored. Dr. Roberto F. Galan of Case Western Reserve University, studies these mezoscopic levels, using cutting-edge technology called high density multielectrode arrays, to investigate brain circuits.

Therefore, Dr. Galan's research unmasks an array of undiscovered opportunities within neuroscience as it allows him to report on thousands of neurons at time. While Dr. Galan's primary interest is fundamental research, his studies have multiple ramifications into translational and clinical applications including important implications for epilepsy and autism. Dr. Galan's multidisciplinary approach combines tools from mathematics and physics with experimental techniques in biology and physiology as well as with computational simulations of neuronal activity to understand how information flows in brain circuits.

Current projects include:

  • Measuring the propagation of spontaneous and evoked activity in normal circuits, which is a key feature underlying the processing of sensory and motor information in the brain, as well as in higher cognitive functions. This method also allows Dr. Galan and his team to investigate how different drugs, and endogenous neuromodulators, such as serotonin, affect brain activity.

  • Investigating how epileptic activity develops and propagates in brain tissue and testing the efficacy of antiepileptic drugs in-vitro.

  • Investigating brain circuits in a mouse model of autism and looking for differences relative to wild-type mice. Significant differences are expected because autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which brain circuits are thought to develop at another pace than in normal conditions, leading to abnormal brain wiring, which ultimately underlies differences in behavior.

  • Collaborating with other groups on and off the Case Western Reserve University campus to analyze brain activity on a large scale, as recorded with electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This data allows him to determine how different parts of the brain interact with each other, and how this functional brain connectivity is altered in conditions such as epilepsy and autism, as shown in several of his recent publications.

Bio

Dr. Galan's keen interest in science began as a child watching the TV series "Cosmos", by Carl Sagan, and "Life on Earth", by David Attenborough. He was not only amazed by the many complex phenomena presented in those shows, but also by the ability of the human intellect to comprehend and abstract the fundamental laws behind them. Dr. Galan later went on to study in Spain majoring in fundamental physics. Then, as a graduate student in Germany, he began to study theoretical biology, and in particular, computational neuroscience. Eventually, he moved to the U.S. as a research associate to learn experimental techniques in neurobiology. Today in his own lab, he combines tools from physics, math, and neurobiology to investigate the  brain function.

Website: http://www.case.edu/med/galanlab

Awards

Biomedical Researcher Award of the Hartwell Foundation, 2013