UTHealth researcher receives NIH funding to study how the brain deciphers words

December 09, 2016

HOUSTON - (Dec. 8, 2016) - Unlocking the mystery of how the brain processes the written word into language is the focus of a $3 million federal grant awarded to Nitin Tandon, M.D., professor of neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and a member of Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute.

Tandon will use intracranial electroencephalogram (icEEG) - devised to detect abnormalities related to electrical activity of the brain in patients with epilepsy - to record the sequence from visual perception of words to selection to speaking those words.

"Humans didn't have a written language until about 10,000 B.C.," Tandon said about the evolution of reading. "Evolutionarily, nature took a brain that was not made to read or write and imprinted symbolic representation upon it. For this it used the existing architecture of the brain - the same place where you recognize a familiar face or that a twig is not a snake -- to build reading and writing. The question is how that region interacts with the rest of our language system, which is a good deal older."

The study, done in collaboration with the Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Program and Johns Hopkins Medical Center, will enroll a total of 80 patients who are already undergoing icEEG for seizures. It is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (RFA-NS-16-008), part of the National Institutes of Health.

"This research is important because it gives us unique insight into the mechanisms of reading, which is a highly evolved human behavior. If we know how the system normally works, we can evaluate patients with dyslexia to understand how their brain works differently and how we might find better therapies for them," Tandon said. "In a more futuristic view, after a person has suffered a stroke or brain injury, these recordings might help us develop a prosthetic device that could decode what's happening in the brain and use it to interface with a computer to allow people to compensate for the deficit they have."

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Related Epilepsy Articles from Brightsurf:

Focal epilepsy often overlooked
Having subtler symptoms, a form of epilepsy that affects only one part of the brain often goes undiagnosed long enough to cause unexpected seizures that contribute to car crashes, a new study finds.

Antibodies in the brain trigger epilepsy
Certain forms of epilepsy are accompanied by inflammation of important brain regions.

Breaching the brain's defense causes epilepsy
Epileptic seizures can happen to anyone. But how do they occur and what initiates such a rapid response?

Using connectomics to understand epilepsy
Abnormalities in structural brain networks and how brain regions communicate may underlie a variety of disorders, including epilepsy, which is one focus of a two-part Special Issue on the Brain Connectome in Brain Connectivity, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

Epilepsy: Triangular relationship in the brain
When an epileptic seizure occurs in the brain, the nerve cells lose their usual pattern and fire in a very fast rhythm.

How concussions may lead to epilepsy
Researchers have identified a cellular response to repeated concussions that may contribute to seizures in mice like those observed following traumatic brain injury in humans.

Understanding epilepsy in pediatric tumors
A KAIST research team led by Professor Jeong Ho Lee of the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering has recently identified a neuronal BRAF somatic mutation that causes intrinsic epileptogenicity in pediatric brain tumors.

Can medical marijuana help treat intractable epilepsy?
A new British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology review examines the potential of medicinal cannabis -- or medical marijuana -- for helping patients with intractable epilepsy, in which seizures fail to come under control with standard anticonvulsant treatment.

Fertility rates no different for women with epilepsy
'Myth-busting' study among women with no history of infertility finds that those with epilepsy are just as likely to become pregnant as those without.

Do women with epilepsy have similar likelihood of pregnancy?
Women with epilepsy without a history of infertility or related disorders who wanted to become pregnant were about as likely as their peers without epilepsy to become pregnant.

Read More: Epilepsy News and Epilepsy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.