Welcome to the laboratory of Dr. Sydney Cash in the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The focus of our group is on trying to understand how the brain works under both normal and pathological conditions with an ultimate goal of developing techniques for diagnosing and treating some of the most devastating diseases. We are particularly focused on using approaches which extract information at multiple scales and then combine them into a more complete and meaningful understanding of brain physiology. We feel this multi-scalar, multi-modal approach is particularly powerful for understanding the human brain because of its complexity and architecture which is, by nature, multi-scalar. This information can then be used to design therapeutic interventions including brain-computer (machine) neuroprosthetics which can restore function for those patients suffering from a wide variety of neuropsychiatric diseases.
We employ non-invasive measures of brain activity (MEG, EEG, fMRI) and structure (MRI) to get a holistic view of the brain. We also use very specialized methods of recording directly from either human or rodent cortex including techniques to record the activity of single human neurons while patients are awake (microelectrode recordings) and optogenetic methods to control individual neurons. By necessity and, more importantly, our philosophy of best practices in science, we collaborate with many different researchers to perform these studies. Our projects are focused on four core, but overlapping, areas:
- Mechanisms of normal cognition at the level of individual neurons and small groups of neurons in the context of widespread brain activity
- The physiology and importance of sleep and dreaming
- The basic physiology of cortical and subcortical oscillations
- The physiological mechanisms of seizures and how they can be better treated.
Long-range, clinically motivated goals include the development of new methods for identifying seizure areas, predicting seizures and then stopping them. We are also using these techniques to move toward new ways of interacting directly with the human nervous system for diagnosis and repair or replacement (neuroprosthetics and brain-computer interfaces) of damaged nervous system tissue.