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Research

Bijanki Lab News

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A screenshot of the NIH Directors Blog - Discovering the Source of Laughter in the Brain
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A screenshot of the NIH Directors Blog - Discovering a source of laughter in the brain.
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Dr. Kelly Bijanki for winning the Somerfield-Ziskind award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry (SOBP). She will receive the award at a ceremony at the SOBP conference in May. This award recognizes the topper go the year published in Biological Psychiatry.

Dr. Kelly Bijanki has been invited to to be this year’s keynote speaker at the Neuroscience Graduate Program Spring Symposium. We’re excited to spend some time with our colleagues at UT Health. Join us on May 3rd at the Institute of Molecular Medicine (1825 Pressler St, Houston, TX 77030).

The lab welcomes senior postdoctoral fellow Lily Chamakura, who joins us from a first postdoc in computational neuroscience in the Pitkow Lab at BCM after doing her doctoral work at IIT, Kharagpur. She will spend the next few years investigating neural responses to high-entropy stimulation, to advance patient-specific therapies for psychiatric diseases. Welcome Lily!

The lab congratulates Isabel Danstrom on her first co-first author manuscript, ”A biophysically constrained brain connectivity model based on stimulation-evoked potentials”, accepted at the Journal of Neuroscience Methods! In this project, our BCM neurosurgery team collaborated with Rice University Neuroengineering to develop an automated method for detecting neural response components during single pulse electrical stimulation that were then used to inform a topology optimization model. The model can predict conductivity paths with low error, allowing advancements toward disentangling relations between electrical pathways and neuronal ensembles. Congratulations to all the authors on a beautiful contribution to the literature! 

The lab congratulates Xiaoxu Fan on her first-author manuscript, “Brain mechanisms underlying the emotion processing bias in treatment-resistant depression”, accepted at Nature Mental Health! In this project, the team characterized a neural signature of treatment-resistant depression, using intracranial recordings from patients with and without TRD to show differential engagement of the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex during an emotion recognition task. This is one of the first markers to characterize the underlying pathophysiology of TRD using intracranial recordings. Congratulations to all the authors on a job well done! 

The lab welcomes senior postdoctoral fellow Xiaoxu Fan, who joins us from the University of Washington, and the Chinese Academy of Science, Institute of Biophysics! Xiaoxu will spend the next few years studying intracranial correlates to affective cognition and neural responses to limbic stimulation. Welcome Xiaoxu!

The lab welcomes research coordinator Suhruthaa Pulapaka, who joins us from the University of North Texas. She will focus on intracranial data acquisition, neuroimaging and bioengineering projects in the intracranial monitoring unit at BCM. Welcome Suhruthaa!

New article accepted at Brain demonstrating the causal role of dorsal ACC in emotional bias and identifying neural correlates of antidepressant phenomenology!

New research funding from the National Institute of Mental Health: Kelly Bijanki, Xaq Pitkow, and Sameer Sheth were awarded a research project grant (R01) to use explainable AI models to understand neural correlates of mood. The project starts April, 2023.  

Congratulations to Isabel Danstrom, who completed her Ph.D. qualifying exam and was admitted to candidacy!

The lab bids a fond farewell to Bailey Pascuzzi, Carl Hacker, and Salma Elhassa, who are off to begin a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology, chief neurosurgery resident year at Washington University in St. Louis, and an MS program in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia, respectively. Congratulations you all!!

The lab welcomes BCM PREP Scholar Salma Elhassa! Salma will study affective quantification and intracranial electrophysiology, working closely with Dr. Eleonora Bartoli in BCM Neurosurgery.

The lab bids a fond farewell to postdoc Brian Metzger Ph.D., who is off to begin an independent faculty position and start his lab at Swarthmore College in PA. Congratulations Brian!

The lab welcomes research coordinator Bailey Pascuzzi, M.A. Bailey focuses on intracranial data acquisition, electrophysiology and neuroimaging projects, and will undertake a solo project to characterize affective function in patients treated with deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression! Bailey started in February 2022.

The lab welcomes neuroscience Ph.D. student Isabel Danstrom! Isabel will spend the next few years studying the structure of the affective salience network using advanced diffusion-weighted imaging techniques paired with sensitive electrophysiological assays of connectivity! She started in May 2022.

Our new paper is out in Brain Stimulation, mapping the DBS effective networks via diffusion tensor imaging and corresponding single-pulse evoked potentials!

New research funding from National Institute of Mental Health: Kelly Bijanki was awarded an independent investigator research project grant (R01) to study the intracranial correlates of mood and social function. The project starts in August, 2021.

New article accepted at the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.

The Bijanki Lab welcomes research assistant Sheraz Pasha! Sheraz focuses on intracranial electrophysiology and neuroimaging projects in the lab, where he started in May, 2021.

The Bijanki Lab welcomes graduate student Madaline Mocchi, of the Baylor Neuroscience Ph.D. program. Maddie will spend the next few years studying the intracranial correlates of autonomic arousal, focusing on the noradrenergic system response to neural stimulation and depressive symptoms. She started in April, 2021.

Congratulations to Camille Steger, who was accepted to the Masters of Public Health program at The Johns Hopkins University, starting in October, 2021.

Kelly Bijanki will be a featured plenary speaker at the upcoming North American Neuromodulation Society - Neural Interfaces Conference joint meeting June 25-27. She will be featured in a session with Alik Widge, M.D., Ph.D., and Dejan Markovic Ph.D., in which the three will speak on advanced intracranial electrophysiology for studying neuropsychiatric disorders. Kelly’s talk will focus on the use of single pulse evoked potentials to characterize network structure and function in treatment-resistant depression.

Upcoming Podcast interview - “This is your Brain” podcast hosted by Dr. Phillip Stieg, Neurosurgeon in Chief of New York-Presbyterian/Weil Cornell Medical Center. January 2021.

Research featured in Brain Initiative 2020 image contest calendar.

New article accepted at Neurosurgery - Van Rooij, S.J.H., Bijanki, K.R., Willie, J.T. (2020). In Reply: Case Series: Unilateral Amygdala Ablation Ameliorates Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Biomarkers. Neurosurgery, December 2020. 

Work featured in Psychology Today, Dec. 16, 2020.

Project selected for funding by the ARCO Foundation and the Caroline Weiss Law Foundation, July 1, 2020.

Work selected as cover article for Neurosurgery. View the October 2020 issue.

Featured article - NIH Directors’ Blog, “Discovering a source of laughter in the brain.” 

Radio interview – BBC 5 Live, ABC's Radio National in Australia, “The Naked Scientists” podcast. “Brain centre for laughter.”

Psychology Today, “Have neuroscientists found a “happy place” in the brain? Electrical stimulation of the cingulum bundle can trigger immediate laughter.”

Psychology Today, “Superfluidity and the synergy of your four brain hemispheres.” 

Gizmodo - “Doctors zap the brains of awake brain surgery patients to make them laugh and have fun.”

U.S. News and World Reports, Science Daily, Interesting Engineering - “Laughter may be the best medicine – for brain surgery

Daily Mail  - “Scientists find the brain's 'funny bone' region: Tickling it can make patients happy during surgery - calming their nerves and keeping them still.”

New Atlas - “Neuroscientists zap patient’s brain to induce laughter … during surgery.” 

Discover Magazine - “In a new experiment, scientists used jolts of electricity to spark actual joy.” 

K01 and R21 Funded by NIMH and NINDS!! Bijanki (PI)- These grants provide critical training in electrophysiology, and to test the scientific premise that the amygdala is directly and causally involved in depression and social processing. In tandem, we week to gain a better understanding of the emotional correlates to limbic brain stimulation. We aim to use this information to help develop better methods to anticipate and prevent neuropsychiatric complications following brain surgery for epilepsy.    

Psychology Today - “Electrical stimulation of the amygdala boosts human memory.”