Advisory Board

Brian N. Pasley, M.S.

The UCBerkeley News article Neuroscientists connect neural activity and blood flow in new brain stimulation technique said

Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have for the first time measured the electrical activity of nerve cells and correlated it to changes in blood flow in response to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive method to stimulate neurons in the brain.
Their findings, reported in the Sept. 28 issue of the journal Science, could substantially improve the effectiveness of brain stimulation as a therapeutic and research tool.
“This long-lasting suppression of activity was surprising,” said Brian Pasley, a graduate student at HWNI and co-lead author of the study. “We’re still trying to understand the physiological mechanisms underlying this effect, but it has implications for how TMS could be used in clinical applications.”
The critical confirmation of the connection between blood flow and neural activity means that researchers can use TMS to alter neural activity, and then use fMRI, which tracks blood flow changes, to assess how the nerve cells respond over time.
“One of the most exciting applications of TMS is the ability to non-invasively modify neural activity in specific ways,” said Pasley. “The brain is malleable, so brain stimulation may be used to alter and promote specific functions, like learning and memory, or suppress abnormal activity that underlies neurological disorders. If we can figure out the right ways to stimulate the brain, TMS will likely be useful in attempts to improve neural function.”

Brian N. Pasley, M.S. is a PhD student in the Helen Wills Neuroscience program at UC-Berkeley, working in Ralph Freeman’s lab. His research interests involve the neural basis of visual perception. Is visual perception a probabilistic process? What role does feedback play? Why do certain visual processing streams give rise to a subjective experience, while others remain below the threshold of visual awareness?
Brian is also interested in the effects of brain stimulation, a technique currently used to treat various neuropsychiatric disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or depression. The therapeutic mechanism is unknown but may involve stimulation-induced alterations in brain plasticity. Understanding how brain stimulation affects neural processing may lead to advances in clinical treatments, as well as new approaches for enhancing cognitive function, such as increasing attention or improving learning and memory. He uses a combination of non-invasive techniques (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, and transcranial magnetic stimulation, TMS) to investigate these questions in the human brain.
He coauthored Transcranial magnetic stimulation elicits coupled neural and hemodynamic consequences, Analysis of oxygen metabolism implies a neural origin for the negative BOLD response in human visual cortex, and Subcortical discrimination of unperceived objects during binocular rivalry. Read the full list of his publications!
Brian earned his BA in Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience at Yale University in 2000 and his MS in Scientific Computing at New York University in 2003. Read Uncovering the Magic in Magnetic Brain Stimulation and Fear and Trembling in the Amygdala.