CCN researchers are using state-of-the-art methods to understand fundamental aspects of human behavior and thought. The extensive research infrastructure of the CCN benefits our research in two important ways. First, by maintaining a wide variety of methods we can always ask “What is the best method for answering this question?” rather than “how can I answer this question with method X?” or worse, “what question can I answer now with method X?” Second, the communal nature of these facilities helps make the CCN a highly collaborative research environment.
Among the methods available for research at the CCN are:
Functional neuroimaging. Many of the CCN's research programs involve fMRI, and currently utilize a 3 Tesla scanner at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania that is dedicated for neuroscience research and managed by the Center for Functional Neuroimaging (cfn.upenn.edu). The scanner is equipped with a wide range of stimulus delivery and behavioral and physiological monitoring systems for functional studies. This facility is a 5-8 minute walk from the CCN, and its location within the Hospital facilitates studies in patient populations as well as in normal subjects.
Image analysis. Analysis of functional and structural brain images takes place at the CfN's state-of-the art computing lab, with a cluster located near the scanner and another at the CCN. The lab runs several standard software packages including VoxBo, SPM, FSL, AFNI, AIR, Brain Voyager, SNAP, FreeSurfer and others, which provide capability for both statistical analyses and 3D visualization of results. The CfN is the home site and main development center for VoxBo, one of the world's premier fMRI data analysis packages.
Computation. Data analysis takes place in our communal, state-of-the-art computing lab, which holds 10 networked workstations as well as a center-wide flat-bed scanner, high-quality color printer, slide-making apparatus and CD burner. The lab runs several standard data analysis packages and serves as the main development site for VoxBo, an fMRI analysis package now used by several other centers.
Human electrophysiology. CCN researchers use both noninvasive (scalp EEG) and invasive recordings (intracranial EEG) to investigate the electrophysiological correlates of human memory and attention. Scalp EEG is recorded using 128-channel EGI and 64-channel Neuroscan systems. Intracranial EEG is recorded during neurosurgical procedures performed at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. For these clinical recordings we use a 128 channel Neuralynx system capable of recording both single-cells and local field potentials.
Eye tracking. Eye movement monitoring allows researchers to obtain fine-grained temporal information about visual attention. The CCN eye tracking lab consists of a portable, head-mounted, video-based, eye tracking system. The eye tracker samples binocularly at 500Hz by means of pupil tracking (alone or in conjunction with corneal reflection tracking). The system can be used with patients as well as healthy individuals.
TMS & TDCS Lab. Our facility for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation enables researchers to reversibly activate or inhibit localized regions of cortex. The lab currently includes a Magstim machine capable of repetitive stimulation and a frameless stereotactic system for precise targeting of stimulation sites. Furthering the field of non-invasive brain stimulation, CCN researchers use the latest Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation techniques and equipment to stimulate the human brain's complex regions of neural processing to develop and advance current and emerging therapies.
Subject populations. Healthy normal research subjects are recruited and scheduled using the CCN's online Experimetrix system. Patient-based research is facilitated by the CCN database of neurological patients with focal lesions, coordinated by Dr. Marianna Stark. There are currently over 300 individuals in the database, who have met multiple criteria for research participation and are available for research testing. Prospective research subjects can be selected by anatomical (lesion site) or functional (behavioral impairment) criteria.
Pharmacology. Psychopharmacology provides another method of reversibly altering brain function in healthy research volunteers. CCN researchers make use of Penn’s Investigational Drug Service to assist in IRB and FDA approvals, manage study medications and prepare visually indistinguishable doses of drug and placebo.
Behavioral testing. The CCN has 4 behavioral testing rooms on site and maintains the Experimentrix online sign-up and scheduling system for behavioral as well as imaging studies.