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Leenaards Prize 2016 to Dr Saj, Dr Serino and Prof Van de Ville

© 2016 EPFL

© 2016 EPFL

The Leenaards Prize 2016 for Translational Medical Research was awarded to Dr Arnaud Saj (HUG, UNIGE), Dr Andrea Serino (EPFL) and Prof Dimitri Van de Ville (EPFL-UNIGE) for their work on neurorehabilitation of hemispatial neglect after stroke by neurofeedback.

To address rehabilitation of visual attention deficits after stroke, a major clinical challenge, we will apply an innovative and powerful technique allowing rehabilitation and neurocognitive training that directly targets brain activity, namely, neurofeedback with real-time brain imaging methodologies. Our specific aim is to test and validate neurofeedback (NFB) as a novel method for reversing neglect symptoms in stokes patients. This approach involves using a brain-computer interface where the patient is informed in real-time about neural activity of specific regions her/his brain. Hence, the activity of critical cortical areas can thus be volitionally modulated based on this feedback information, with personalized mental imagery strategies. Based on recent research and our own pilot work, we expect that NFB regulation of visual cortex will lead to improvement in the attentional deficits of neglect patients.
Two complementary methods exist that allow for self-regulation of brain activity: real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rt-fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG). On the one hand, rt-fMRI neurofeedback is a reliable method for detecting and defining activation patterns of specific cortical regions (e.g. primary visual cortex, V1), thanks to its high spatial resolution, but it remains expensive, technically demanding, and exclusive to large medical centers. On the other, EEG-based NFB is excellent for capturing dynamic neural processes due to its high temporal resolution, while it is also portable and relatively low cost. However, EEG signals provide more global measures of brain activity, with low spatial resolution about the specific brain regions involved. Therefore, as a first step, we propose to harness the combined strength of these modalities by applying both rt-fMRI and EEG neurofeedback, either alone or combined simultaneously, in a prospective cohort of stroke patients with neglect. We believe that our project will allow us to define and validate an innovative approach for attentional rehabilitation in stroke. In addition, this project might also contribute to further elucidate the interplay between visual cortical activity and other (e.g., parietal) areas in modulating perception and consciousness.

The ceremony will be on March 10th in EPFL. More information and registration on Leenaards web site.