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  1. Abstract Objective. Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (TSS) has been shown to be a promising non-invasive alternative to epidural spinal cord stimulation for improving outcomes of people with spinal cord injury (SCI). However, studies on the effects of TSS on cortical activation are limited. Our objectives were to evaluate the spatiotemporal effects of TSS on brain activity, and determine changes in functional connectivity under several different stimulation conditions. As a control, we also assessed the effects of functional electrical stimulation (FES) on cortical activity. Approach . Non-invasive scalp electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded during TSS or FES while five neurologically intact participants performed one of three lower-limb tasks while in the supine position: (1) A no contraction control task, (2) a rhythmic contraction task, or (3) a tonic contraction task. After EEG denoising and segmentation, independent components (ICs) were clustered across subjects to characterize sensorimotor networks in the time and frequency domains. ICs of the event related potentials (ERPs) were calculated for each cluster and condition. Next, a Generalized Partial Directed Coherence (gPDC) analysis was performed on each cluster to compare the functional connectivity between conditions and tasks. Main results . IC analysis of EEG during TSS resulted in three clusters identifiedmore »at Brodmann areas (BA) 9, BA 6, and BA 4, which are areas associated with working memory, planning, and movement control. Lastly, we found significant ( p  < 0.05, adjusted for multiple comparisons) increases and decreases in functional connectivity of clusters during TSS, but not during FES when compared to the no stimulation conditions. Significance. The findings from this study provide evidence of how TSS recruits cortical networks during tonic and rhythmic lower limb movements. These results have implications for the development of spinal cord-based computer interfaces, and the design of neural stimulation devices for the treatment of pain and sensorimotor deficit.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  2. Rapid and sensitive pH measurements with increased spatiotemporal resolution are imperative to probe neurochemical signals and illuminate brain function. We interfaced carbon fiber microelectrode (CFME) sensors with both fast scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) and field-effect transistor (FET) transducers for dynamic pH measurements. The electrochemical oxidation and reduction of functional groups on the surface of CFMEs affect their response over a physiologically relevant pH range. When measured with FET transducers, the sensitivity of the measurements over the measured pH range was found to be (101 ± 18) mV, which exceeded the Nernstian value of 59 mV by approximately 70%. Finally, we validated the functionality of CFMEs as pH sensors with FSCV ex vivo in rat brain coronal slices with exogenously applied solutions of varying pH values indicating that potential in vivo study is feasible.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 19, 2023
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  8. Optically-active optoelectronic materials are of great interest for many applications, including chiral sensing and circularly polarized light emission. Traditionally, such applications have been enabled by synthetic strategies to design chiral organic semiconductors and conductors. Here, centrosymmetric tetrathiafulvalene (TTF) crystals are rendered chiral on the mesoscale by crystal twisting. During crystallization from the melt, helicoidal TTF fibers were observed to grow radially outwards from a nucleation centre as spherulites, twisting in concert about the growth direction. Because molecular crystals exhibit orientation-dependent refractive indices, periodic concentric bands associated with continually rotating crystal orientations were observed within the spherulites when imaged between crossed polarizers. Under certain conditions, concomitant crystal twisting and bending was observed, resulting in anomolous crystal optical behavior. X-ray diffraction measurements collected on different spherulite bands indicated no difference in the molecular packing between straight and twisted TTF crystals, as expected for microscopic twisting pitches between 20–200 μm. Mueller matrix imaging, however, revealed preferential absorption and refraction of left- or right-circularly polarized light in twisted crystals depending on the twist sense, either clockwise or counterclockwise, about the growth direction. Furthermore, hole mobilities of 2.0 ± 0.9 × 10 −6 cm 2 V −1 s −1 and 1.9 ± 0.8 × 10more »−5 cm 2 V −1 s −1 were measured for straight and twisted TTF crystals deposited on organic field-effect transistor platforms, respectively, demonstrating that crystal twisting does not negatively impact charge transport in these systems.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
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  10. Human brain size nearly quadrupled in the six million years since Homo last shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees, but human brains are thought to have decreased in volume since the end of the last Ice Age. The timing and reason for this decrease is enigmatic. Here we use change-point analysis to estimate the timing of changes in the rate of hominin brain evolution. We find that hominin brains experienced positive rate changes at 2.1 and 1.5 million years ago, coincident with the early evolution of Homo and technological innovations evident in the archeological record. But we also find that human brain size reduction was surprisingly recent, occurring in the last 3,000 years. Our dating does not support hypotheses concerning brain size reduction as a by-product of body size reduction, a result of a shift to an agricultural diet, or a consequence of self-domestication. We suggest our analysis supports the hypothesis that the recent decrease in brain size may instead result from the externalization of knowledge and advantages of group-level decision-making due in part to the advent of social systems of distributed cognition and the storage and sharing of information. Humans live in social groups in which multiple brains contributemore »to the emergence of collective intelligence. Although difficult to study in the deep history of Homo , the impacts of group size, social organization, collective intelligence and other potential selective forces on brain evolution can be elucidated using ants as models. The remarkable ecological diversity of ants and their species richness encompasses forms convergent in aspects of human sociality, including large group size, agrarian life histories, division of labor, and collective cognition. Ants provide a wide range of social systems to generate and test hypotheses concerning brain size enlargement or reduction and aid in interpreting patterns of brain evolution identified in humans. Although humans and ants represent very different routes in social and cognitive evolution, the insights ants offer can broadly inform us of the selective forces that influence brain size.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 22, 2022