Dr. Laleh Najafizadeh
Department of Electrical Engineering
Variability in Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities
Our cognitive abilities including the way we learn, perceive, execute tasks, make decisions or improve with training vary widely from one another, and change as we age. Such variability may be attributed to variations in genes, brain’s structure and function, and the level of environmental influences on neural functional organization. Majority of existing functional neuroimaging studies, however, are conducted based on an “aggregate-then-analyze” approach, providing insights about regularities in the average population.
In this talk, I will focus on how functional connectivity can be utilized to study variability. Functional connectivity aims to investigate the interactions between remote regions of the brain either when the brain is at rest (known as resting state connectivity), or when it is engaged in executing a task (known as task-based connectivity), thereby, offering an interesting tool to study the brain through its functional network structure. I will provide an overview of recent studies illustrating that variability can be studied through functional connectivity. I will then present our novel method for identifying temporal changes in functional connectivity, which will enable an exciting platform for studying neuronal mechanisms underlying variability. I will then conclude with discussing opportunities for future research.
Laleh Najafizadeh is an Assistant Professor and the director of the Integrated Systems and Neuroimaging Laboratory in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University. She received her Ph.D. degree from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, M.Sc. degree from the University of Alberta (Canada), and B.Sc. degree from Isfahan University of Technology (Iran), all in Electrical Engineering. From 2010 to 2012 she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Bethesda, MD, where she conducted research in the areas of neuroscience, functional brain imaging and biophotonics. Her research is currently supported by several agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), Siemens Healthcare and DARPA. She has co-authored two book chapters and more than 70 peer-reviewed papers in premier journals and conference proceedings and has received awards for her research, including the Best Student Paper Award (runner-up) at 2014 IEEE ISCAS.