Electrobiology and Neural Engineering research at Duke focuses upon the electrical activity of the heart and nervous system as well as applications for the treatment of cardiac and neurological disorders. The fields of cardiac bioelectricity and neural engineering share many of the same fundamental principles, tools, hardware, and commercial outlets, and we exploit these similarities to provide an integrated program and research and education.
Current research activities in the heart span a range of length scales from the ion-channel to the organ level. One of the main areas of focus is the development of realistic mathematical and computer models of cardiac muscle.
One of the strengths of electrophysiology research at Duke is the close relationship between modelers and experimentalists. In vitro experimental work uses micropatterning of cardiac cells and optical mapping of membrane potentials to study the normal and abnormal electrical function of synthetic heart tissues. Animal experimental work uses high-density electrical mapping to examine the effect of interventional therapies (e.g. catheter ablation and automatic implantable cardioverter/defibrillator implantation) upon electrical activity of the heart. Experimental and simulation studies are being conducted to elucidate the electrophysiological processes underlying arrhythmias and arrhythmia control.
Duke BME heart researchers also collaborate with the Center for Nonlinear and Complex Systems and faculty from Duke's Math and Physics Departments in using methods of nonlinear dynamics to characterize and control electrical activity of the heart.
Current research activity in Neural Engineering includes deep brain stimulation for the treatment of motor disorders, electrical stimulation for restoration of bladder function, electrical stimulation for restoration of multi-joint motor function (e.g., reaching), and design of novel electrodes, stimulation methods and data acquisition systems to record from or stimulate specific areas of the nervous system. Another part of the research aims at understanding how large populations of neurons can efficiently communicate information and how communication pathways can be dynamically re-configured. This work is conducted in the context of spatial and emotional memory and decision making and is aimed at the treatment of learning deficits and memory disorders.
The research involves a variety of in vitro, in vivo and computational modeling techniques that bridge knowledge of the detailed biophysical mechanisms of single neurons with the study of their activity at the population level.
The Duke Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neurobiology have established a joint Center for Neuroengineering. Research in the Center focuses on the development of neuro-based technologies such as brain machine interfaces, neural prostheses, system-level computational modeling, and on the application of electrophysiological and functional imaging techniques to both monitor and treat neurological diseases.
Duke BME Neural Engineering researchers collaborate with faculty in Cardiology, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Computer Science, Neurobiology, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Mathematics, Pediatrics, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Radiology, and Physics and Urology.