Neurophysiological research helps to understand various diseases
José Pichel Andrés/DICYT The Neurophysiology Laboratory of the Universidad de Beira Interior in Covilhã is studying the cerebral physiology of normal subjects and neurological pathologies in very diverse patients. Although this research team has only been working for just over three years, its scientists are obtaining results that may have direct applications in the clinical field for neurodegenerative pathologies and the study of ageing. The laboratory is located in the Health Science Faculty in the new health unit of the Universidad de Beira Interior, UBIMedical.
“We aim to assess neurological pathologies such as cerebrovascular accidents, insanity, extrapyramidal diseases such as Parkinson's, and pain-related pathologies by using various neurophysiological methods, attempting also to study their evolution”, DiCYT was told by Maria Vaz Patto, the director of the Neurophysiology Laboratory.
The research fields covered by this team are very diverse, but some specific projects are singled out by the scientists: “We are studying the mechanisms of creativity, finalising the presentation of an anti-bedsore device, and assessing the responses of patients who have had a cerebrovascular accident and have cognitive difficulties in responding to forms of neurophysiological stimulation”.
“We have had very favourable results with the various stimulations used for patients who have had a cerebrovascular accident and those with minimal cognitive difficulties”, the researcher emphasises. The results of this research will be published shortly. Moreover, the laboratory studies are also noteworthy in the field of neuropsychology, for instance in the auditory perception of normal subjects.
in order to cover all this work, the team consists of different professionals such as a neurologist, a clinical neurophysiologist, a clinical cardiopulmonologist, a neuropsychologist, two Internal Medicine doctors, and a general practitioner. However, this field is so wide and touches on so many spheres of knowledge that there are frequent collaborations between this laboratory and specialists from various departments of the university, such as those of engineering and aeronautics, with projects of neurophysiological assessment, for instance. Neurophysiology is also useful in the fields of medical education, marketing, and multimedia design or optometry. Many students of medicine, pharmacy, optometry, and engineering carrying out master's degree studies are taking part in these collaborations.
In order to carry out these studies, the Neurophysiology Laboratory uses techniques such as electromyography, which assesses the electrical activity produced by the muscles joined to the skeleton; the technique of evoked potentials, which studies the response of the nervous system to sensory stimuli; electroencephalography, which analyses brainwaves; and transcranial magnetic stimulation which stimulates the cerebral cortex.
The forthcoming objectives of this group include that of entering into international collaboration not only in the field of research but also in that of teaching. It will shortly welcome a Brazilian student and one of its future projects will be the creating of an international master's degree in ageing.