Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Neuroscience is the study of the structure and function of the brain. This is inclusive of neurochemistry, physiology, anatomy, molecular biology, computer science, engineering and many adjacent disciplines. While there have been a multitude of studies in this field, there are still so many questions left unanswered about the brain. One such question pertains to how animals and humans perceive stimuli from the environmental periphery, a neuroscience sub-area known as sensory processing.
By design, humans have neurological states and receptors which organically take in all of these stimuli and decipher them for everyday needs. Sensory input enables subjects to perform daily tasks fluidly and often subconsciously. Therefore, through sensory processing the brain is able to take in information and turn it into appropriate motor and behavioral responses . As the brain naturally ages, sensory function can decline, which in turn reduces a subject’s cognitive ability, including the ability to form short term memories. This decline can be steep and can lead to diseases, including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Dementia, and/or Alzheimer’s [4, 21]. This inability for short-term memory formation is most apparent in the occipital region, or back, of the brain.
Research has shown that neural rhythms (electrical oscillations produced by the activity of brain cells) are associated with sensory functionality, and it has been hypothesized that these rhythms may be causal to function . Understanding this begs the question of whether natural neural rhythms could be exogenously controlled (e.g., in terms of their frequency or magnitude) and, subsequently, whether cognitive function would be affected.
Integrating neuroscience technology with engineering methodology allows this hypothesis to be tested. Specifically, in the current research, we examine exogenous control of the Posterior Dominant Rhythm (PDR), an intrinsic neural rhythm that appears over the rear portion of the scalp when a subject is restful and closes their eyes. The PDR is known to exhibit individual variation, which is sometimes referred to as a person’s peak resonant frequency. Our hypothesis was that properly tuned sensory input in the form of acoustic stimulation, could modulate or control the PDR in individual subjects.
The objective is to study whether it is feasible to manipulate and alter a subject’s natural neural frequency or specifically, the PDR with exogenous stimuli. Therefore, this research aims to prove that with specific stimuli it is possible to alter the natural neural frequency of a subject. Statistical analysis is used to further prove the objective and results from this study do show that exogenous stimuli alters subject neural frequencies.
Dr. ShiNung Ching
Dr. ShiNung Ching Dr. James Feher Dr. Neal Patwari