Neuronal Interfaces

Neuronal interfaces consists in artificially modifying the activity of the Central or Peripheral Nervous System with restorative and rehabilitation therapeutic objectives. Neuromodulation can be induced by electric or electromagnetic stimulation (implanted electrodes, TMS, DBS), optogenetic stimulation, chemical agents, or even by self-observation of activity (neurofeedback). Some types of neuromodulation aim at restoring sensory processing, by converting the natural input into electrical or optogenetic stimulation of an appropriate target (cochlear or retinal implants, for instance). Other types of approaches aim at restoring control (muscular control after stroke, bladder control restoration) or health (management of pain, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders). The working principle of neuromodulation is to modulate the excitation or the inhibition of target areas. Although it is effective in many cases, some patients (up to ½ in some cases) can be “non-responders”. Understanding precisely the mechanisms of neuromodulation would help to improve its efficiency.

This is why researchers at Université Côte d’Azur want to study how neuromodulation modifies precisely the central or peripheral nervous system in real time and to follow this modification over time (plasticity). To do so, they develop new experimental protocols either on patients or on animal tissue in combination with new adapted mathematical models and statistical tools. For instance, the electrical diffusion properties of tissues can be modeled: this guides the target regions of the stimulation. Linking structural parameters (axonal geometry and microstructure) to the functional outcome of stimulation is also an open problem to address, using animal models and/or peroperative clinical data.