SIU Katowice: The Brain in a Nutshell

 

By: Stephanie Anderson Edited By: Ruchi Maniar

On November 30, 2017 the SIU Katowice team held a successful “The Brain in a Nutshell” event - amassing an interest in over 200 attendees.

Understanding the brain is exceedingly important as it steers the very essence of life itself; and with this in mind, the SIU team welcomed three guest speakers to discuss current brain research and the vast possibilities that could come about from increasing our understanding of the brain.

Our first guest speaker was Dr. Bert Sakmann, a German cell physiologist. Dr. Sakmann is the 1991 Nobel Prize co-winner in physiology for the discovery of “the function of a single cell ion channel” enabled by their invention of the patch-clamp technique. He is currently an inaugural director at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience and head of the research group “Digital Neuroanatomy.”

Dr. Sakmann presented an overview of using the patch-clamp technique to study ionic currents in a single cell. One of the examples that he discussed was to determine if the dendrite was electrically inexcitable, and his research confirmed that actually the dendrite was electrically excitable using a patch-clamp technique on a single brain neuron to show how he came to that conclusion. This involved the use of two micropipettes (patch pipette) that were filled with an electrolyte-containing solution attached to the dendrite and the soma. Dr Sakmann provided further details of his Nobel Prize-winning experiment, and explained each step. He concluded his talk by presenting work from his research group - a pioneering technique called calcium fluorimetry that allows an individual to examine not only one, but many neurons at once. By filling the cell with calcium fluorophore, it allows the researcher to measure the currents of opening calcium channels. This changes the measurement from electrical to fluorescent. Dr. Sakmann ended with a two photon calcium transient imaging clip that showed color changes of blue to yellow to red in the soma and dendrites that indicated the influx of calcium and electrical excitability after a stimulus.

Our second guest speaker was the neurophysiologist and CEO of Neuro Device, Paweł Soluch. He is currently based at Medical University of Warsaw where he was a former student. Mr. Soluch is also a well published author on topics related to fMRI and psychophysiology.

Mr. Soluch presented a new device called the Nurostym: a transcranial electrical stimulator (tES) which has more functionalities than those already on the market. There are five different modulators on the device including a main transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and a transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS). The tDCS supply non-linear effects that are dependent on the strength and duration of the electrical stimulation. They also stimulate cortical excitability along with being well suited for non-focal plasticity of the brain. The stimulator works by placing two sponges (one anode - and one cathode +) on either side of the head which is connected to the current source. The electrical current crosses the brain with anodal turning up the volume in the brain while cathode turns down the volume of the brain; volume refers to the excitability/plasticity of the brain. An example that Mr. Soluch conveyed was that if an individual is presented with pain, then the brain would need to be stimulated with the cathodal part to turn down or decrease the excitability/plasticity of the brain. There is continuing scientific research that proves tDCS can help treat post-stroke cognitive impairments but also help with depressive states.

There is also evidence to support analgesic benefits of tDCS during stimulation and post-stimulation. Neuro Device’s next upcoming project is a helmet type tES that will aid in the rehabilitation of stroke patients.

Our final speaker was Jakub Bania. He was one of the first certified graduates of OMNI Hypnosis Training Center in Poland and is a certified hypnotherapist by the National Guild of Hypnosis.

Mr. Bania works in Krakow where he uses hypnosis as a therapeutic technique to help individuals change their emotions, habits and daily patterns that makes life difficult. In treating patients, he explained that hypnosis is the cooperation of the individual’s subconscious and conscious mind, and that the individual has to be a 100% accepting of the therapy. Mr. Bania further described the therapy that he commonly utilises, called regression-based hypnotherapy, and reiterated that hypnosis is hypnotizing oneself with the aid of suggestions. This therapy has four main components, with the first to identify the initial sensitizing event (ISE) or where it all began. Next is to relieve all the suppressed emotions during that time then to re-learn habits and patterns. To re-learn these habits and patterns, the patients must revisit their past as an adult to guide their child-self through the ISE with their newfound knowledge and strength. Lastly, is to establish changes through direct suggestions from the hypnotherapist. His therapy includes jumping back and forth from the past to the present with each time the patient becoming stronger and eventually able to dissolve all emotions from the ISE. The end results with the patient feeling completely different than their past self with their trauma no longer affecting their daily lives.

From this event through the aid of our speakers, we learnt that there are a variety of ways our complex brain can be examined and manipulated, from Dr. Sakmann’s cellular approach, Mr. Soluch’s brain stimulation to Mr. Bania’s hypnotic therapy; the advancements in neuroscience are continually growing. The benefits of these studies will lead to advanced therapies for different brain pathologies and mental health disorders.

We would like to thank Dr. Bert Sakmann, Mr. Paweł Soluch and Mr. Jakub Bania for taking time out of their busy schedule to come and speak with us about their work.