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Update on Brain Waves (EEG/ERP) Research

Darci M. Nielsen, PhD,
Senior Neuroscientist, SPD Foundation

Our big move to the new location is complete. A new EEG lab is in process. Much has been accomplished and we anticipate more to come. Two ground-breaking papers were published on data collected at our former location (Brett-Green, et al., 2008; ). We are at an opportune time to update our lab and make some modifications to our paradigms. We are excited to report that we are currently in the process of updating and improving our electroencephalography/event related potential (EEG/ERP; i.e., Brain Waves) paradigms that evaluate sensory processing and integration in the brain. These changes will better enable us to determine and more directly compare differences between children with SPD and typically developing controls.

The new Brain Wave studies that we are implementing are largely from a new collaboration with Dr. John Foxe and Dr. Sophie Molholm, who are at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY. Their Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory group is in the process of building a state of the art device to deliver tactile sensations. They are graciously giving one of these new devices to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation. Moreover, we are creating a collaborative study in which both sites will collect data using the same paradigms. We will combine the data from individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder and typically developing children collected at both sites. We are very enthusiastic about this collaboration with two of the leaders in the field of multisensory integration and their extensive team. Additionally, we expect this collaboration to result in some very informative publications comparing children with SPD to typically developing controls. Ultimately our plan is to obtain a funded NIH grant.

In the new Brain Wave studies we will still be looking at how the brain of children with SPD and typically developing children responds to audio and tactile stimuli. However, we are also adding visual stimuli to our studies. Thus, we will be able to evaluate audio, tactile, and visual stimuli individually as well as audio-visual stimuli together.

Another change to the Brain Waves research is to increase the duration of each visit so that we can collect more trials per individual. More data will give us a clearer idea of how the brain reacts to sensory stimuli. The signals from the brain that we measure are very small and are easily contaminated by artifacts picked up in the recordings that do not come from the brain. Activities that occur and that can't be avoided during testing such as moving, sneezing, coughing, and even blinking can cause artifacts. The good thing is we know how to identify and ignore the trials with artifacts and choose the 'clean' ones. Even better is if we have a large number of trials collected per individual, we are more likely to get more artifact-free trails, which result in more data to evaluate, which in turn gives a better picture of what is going on in the brain.

Since the new Brain Waves research lab will take longer than in the past, we are adding more breaks, some new activities (e.g., simple video-like games), and the ability for you or your child to choose which DVD movie to watch. The study can also be broken up into multiple days if needed to fit into your schedule or we can see you on weekends!

While protocol changes are relatively simple to implement, unfortunately it is costly to update our equipment and software. In the field of neuroscience, 'current and state of the art' is very fast paced and expensive - donations are always welcome and needed to support and sustain this research program, as well as all of our research projects. Additionally, the Brain Waves research lab is collecting DVD donations, as our library of DVDs is very limited; if you have any child and/or adolescent friendly DVDs that you no longer use please donate them for use during the Brain Waves lab.

Information about how to participate in the BRAIN WAVES research lab will be coming soon to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation's website. If your child participated in previous studies, he/she may be eligible to participate again. We will keep you posted. Look for updates and notifications on our website.

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