Students and Open positions

Short projects / EPFL lab immersions

Semester Project / Internship

Title:

A computational exploration of the mechanisms of epidural electrical stimulation on human spinal sensorimotor circuits.

 

Student pre-requisites:

Experience with programming (Python)

Experience/Interest in spiking neural networks (NEURON)

Experience/Interest in 3D CAD modelling

Experience/Interest in computational neuroscience

 

Primary Supervisor:

EPFL:  Andreas Rowald, PhD Student of Grégoire Courtine

 

Project Description:

Central nervous system disorders such as spinal cord injury (SCI) and stroke lead to distinct impairments in leg motor control and balance. Epidural Electrical Stimulation (EES) of lumbar and sacral segments of the spinal cord has been proven to restore voluntary and coordinated movements of the lower limbs in various animal models. Translation of this technology to human patients requires the development of dedicated, robust solutions for clinical use. However, the mechanisms through which this neuromodulation therapy engages spinal circuits remain enigmatic. Computational modelling of rat spinal sensorimotor circuits has enhanced our understanding greatly. Unfortunately, these insights don´t seem to be consistent between species and so it is crucial that we understand the mechanisms of EES in humans and how it differs to the observations in rats. Therefore, the student will develop a hybrid computational model of the lumbar and sacral human spinal cord, consisting of a 3D Finite Element Method (FEM) Model, combined with a realistic representation of spinal sensorimotor circuits.

 

Tasks:

The project will involve the creation of multiple 3D FEM Model of the lumbar and sacral spinal cord of humans and a NEURON model of the spinal sensorimotor circuits.

 

If you are interested in the project please do not hesitate to contact us: [email protected]

Semester Project / Internship

Title:

A computational assessment of the effects of varying levels of realism in computational models of epidural electrical stimulation on human spinal sensorimotor circuits in large and diversified patient cohorts.

 

Student pre-requisites:

Experience with programming (Python)

Experience/Interest in spiking neural networks (NEURON)

Experience/Interest in 3D CAD modelling

Experience/Interest in computational neuroscience

 

Primary Supervisor:

EPFL:  Andreas Rowald, PhD Student of Grégoire Courtine

 

Project Description:

Central nervous system disorders such as spinal cord injury (SCI) and stroke lead to distinct impairments in leg motor control and balance. Epidural Electrical Stimulation (EES) of lumbar and sacral segments of the spinal cord has been proven to restore voluntary and coordinated movements of the lower limbs in various animal models. Translation of this technology to human patients requires the development of dedicated, robust solutions for clinical use. Indeed, therapeutic success of EES entails the definition of dedicated spinal electrode arrays and stimulation strategies that can account for the large variability that is observed in clinical populations. Personalization of implantation procedures and stimulation protocols will be critical in addressing the specific motor deficits in large and diversified patient cohorts.

 

In an effort to develop a therapy for recovery of locomotion in paraplegic patients, we have developed a computational framework able to simulate the effects of EES on specific subjects to a new degree of realism. However, it is not yet understood if this level of realism is actually necessary or if a less extensive computational model would be sufficient for the development of therapeutic strategies. In this semester project, the student will perform a computational assessment on the effects of various model creation strategies on the optimization of stimulation paradigms in a population of patient-specific hybrid computational model of the lumbar and sacral human spinal cord consisting of a 3D Finite Element Method (FEM) Model, combined with a realistic representation of spinal sensorimotor circuits.

 

Tasks:

The project will involve the creation of multiple 3D FEM Model of the lumbar and sacral spinal cord of humans and a NEURON model of the spinal sensorimotor circuits.

 

If you are interested in the project please do not hesitate to contact us: [email protected]

 

Master’s Theses

Master’s Thesis

Title:

A computational model to explain the effects of epidural electrical stimulation on the autonomic nervous system

 

Student pre-requisites:

Experience with programming (Python)

Experience/Interest in spiking neural networks (NEURON)

Experience/Interest in 3D CAD modelling

Experience/Interest in computational neuroscience

 

Primary Supervisor:

EPFL:  Andreas Rowald, PhD Student of Grégoire Courtine

 

Project Description:

Autonomic dysfunction is the major cause of death for those suffering from a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). The clinical management options for these conditions are currently limited to pharmacological treatments with delayed onset and nonpharmacological interventions with equivocal effectiveness. We are currently exploring the possibility to manage autonomic dysfunction through Epidural Electrical Stimulation (EES) to alleviate these issues. However, the mechanisms through with EES could be used to interact with the autonomic nervous system remain enigmatic.

The aim of this thesis is to develop a multi-faceted, multi-layer computational framework, combining 3D Finite Element Method (FEM) to characterize the electric potential and currents generated by EES, a geometrically realistic biophysical model of spinal sensorimotor circuits to identify the type of neurons, fibers and circuits recruited by EES-induced electrical fields and currents and a spiking neural network to explore the mechanisms through which these circuits regulate blood-pressure.

 

Tasks:

The master’s thesis will involve the creation of a 3D FEM Model of the lumbar and sacral spinal cord of rats and a NEURON model of the spinal sensorimotor circuits.

 

If you are interested in the project please do not hesitate to contact us: [email protected]