Building on the successful Spotlight Profiles of Sussex Research Fellows, on Tuesday 13th June 2017, the Research Staff Office is hosting a Spotlight session as part of the annual Sussex Impact Day. The aim of the session is to celebrate the research achievements and impact of Sussex Research Fellows through a series of short engaging TED-style talks from postdoctoral researchers from across the University.
And one of the Spotlight Speakers is Dr Elizabeth Rendon-Morales, from our School – talking about early heart monitoring…
‘Have you ever thought when was the first time that your heart started pumping blood?
It happens during pregnancy around week ten of gestational age, the detection of the heartbeat is the main indicator that the baby is alive. When the heart is first formed, the summation of electrical activity generated in the cardiac muscle of the embryo defines the generation of what we call electrocardiogram.
I am fascinated with the fact that our heart generates electricity by itself. With my research I would like to aid in the understanding of the processes associated with the electricity of the heart when it is first formed. Nevertheless, as I am neither biologist nor cardiologist I will answer this question from the Engineering point of view which is by developing highly-sensitive tools.My research is about the development and testing of novel sensing technologies to gather information related with the development of the heart when it is first formed. This information does not exist, due to the lack of non-invasive technology.
My research has demonstrated that the development of novel devices based on electric field detection could be used to develop future diagnostic equipment. This technology measures the electricity from the body in a non-invasive way, which means we can monitor signals from foetus without affecting its development.I believe that technology should be designed for real people, my dream is to make this technology accessible and to aid the understanding on how the electricity of the heart contributes to the origin-of-life.’
Another of the speakers is Dr Adam Barrett – also from the School of Engineering and Informatics…
‘Understanding the biological basis of consciousness is sometimes considered the final frontier of science. We are now finally seeing some progress on this frontier: a theory for describing mathematically the key differences between conscious and unconscious brain activity, that can be tested on brain data. Strikingly, when we’re conscious there are a greater number of distinct patterns present in our brain waves. This reflects how complicated each moment of our experience is, and that each experience is one of an absolutely vast number of possible experiences that we could have. Drawing from my mathematical background in theoretical physics, I have been refining the theory and its real-world applications. We have been developing and applying new methods for counting the number of different patterns in a brain recording. The results are encouraging: brain activity when asleep or under anaesthesia is indeed less diverse, in terms of number of distinct patterns, than brain activity when awake. Intriguingly, we have even found that there is greater diversity than normal in the brain waves of someone given a psychedelic substance such as LSD.’