Recognizing that chronic disability is characterized by dysfunction in multiple interrelated systems across physical biological and psychosocial domains, CASBBI brings together experts in neuroscience, physics, engineering, computer science, psychology, and rehabilitation to pursue convergence research that integrates knowledge across disciplines. We aim to uncover underlying neurobiological mechanisms of disability, modulate them through novel technological approaches, and develop measurement tools sensitive to changes resulting from the interventions.

The core methodological expertise of CASBBI is in multiscale neuromodulation and neuroimaging, human machine interactions, and sensorimotor integration and human movement. The core facilities include shared research instrumentation, core imaging facilities, and shared wet and dry lab facilities on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University.

Multiscale Imaging

At CASBBI, we are combining multiscale imaging, including new ultrasound, photoacoustic, and magnetic resonance imaging techniques, with novel devices for modulating function, including transcranial magnetic stimulation, ultrasound induced bioeffects, and assistive technologies for rehabilitation. Our areas of expertise include:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging: CASBBI researchers utilize functional MRI for investigating reward mechanisms, emotion regulation, perception and action, and spatial and temporal representations.

Ultrasound Imaging: CASBBI researchers utilize ultrasound imaging and elastography in combination with 3-D motion capture, photoacoustic imaging, laser Doppler imaging, and functional near-infrared spectroscopy for investigating interactions between the central and peripheral nervous system and musculoskeletal system in human subjects.

Photoacoustic Imaging: CASBBI researchers are developing novel methods for noninvasively sensing, imaging, and quantifying bio-electric activity using photoacoustics, which is a method that relies on the absorption of light by voltage-sensitive probes and subsequent generation of ultrasound. Researchers are also developing novel nanoparticles based on carbon nanotubes that can be employed for photoacoustic-based molecular/chemical sensing.

Functional Near-infrared Spectroscopy: CASBBI researchers are utilizing functional near infrared spectroscopy to understand patterns of brain activation during human movement.

High-Density Electro-Encephalography: CASBBI researchers are utilizing high-density EEG with source localization imaging to investigate social reinforcement learning.


Multiscale Neuromodulation

Modulation of bio-electrical and bio-chemical activity in the peripheral and central nervous system is an emerging new frontier for the treatment and management of a wide variety of chronic disease states as well as for understanding underlying physiological mechanisms. The current state-of-the-art in bidirectional (modulation and sensing) neural interfacing with the brain and peripheral nerves involves electrical stimulation and recording from neural circuits. This approach, which relies on implantable electrodes, is severely limited in spatial resolution and field of view. Furthermore, the inherently invasive nature of this method hinders widespread utility of interfacing with the brain and peripheral nervous system.

At CASBBI, we are developing multi-modal strategies that facilitate noninvasive investigation of bio-electrical and bio-chemical interactions at spatial scales spanning sub-cellular constituents to whole organs and systems in the body to enable in vitro, pre-clinical, and translational research.


Human Machine Interaction

Assistive technologies, ranging from sophisticated bionic devices for individuals with physical disability to therapeutic social robots for individuals with psychosocial disability, have tremendous promise in improving quality of life and function. However, the challenge continues to be the interface between human users and these machines, due to the limitations in robustly sensing the volitional intent of the human user.

At CASBBI, we are developing and evaluating novel devices and systems to help people with disabilities, including novel robots, wearable sensors, and actuators.  Another line of research investigates neural interfaces from the cellular level — for example, designing novel sensors that can track electrical activity and neurotransmitters in the brain (in culture and in vivo), as well as designing methods to non-invasively modulate neural activity. A third line of research is investigating the role of social robots in providing interventions to children with autism spectrum disorders.


Study of Human Movement

A key aspect of brain-body interactions is manifest in behavior. Perhaps the most ubiquitous example of this is the perception-action interactions that underlie motor behavior. These interactions are constantly updated in response to experience, a process known as sensory-motor adaptation that is critical for functioning successfully in one’s environment.

At CASBBI, areas of study include the process by which this adaptation occurs, its mechanisms, and its relationship to functional disability and recovery. We are also developing new methods for quantifying muscle function during movement and markerless methods for motion capture and gait analysis.