"Real-time interaction between computer simulations
and electrophysiological experiments: A novel paradigm
for biological experiments"

Robert J. Butera, Ph.D.
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA USA


Abstract

Ever since the pioneering work of Hodgkin and Huxley in the 1950s, the use of mathematical models and computer simulations of those models has become a common companion to electrophysiological experiments. In both neuroscience and cardiology, the use of modeling is now a commonplace tool for those engaged in single cell electrophysiology experiments. Evidence of the success of computational modeling is the routine acceptance of modeling, or combination model-experiment papers, in the publications of all leading neuroscience journals. However, approximately 20 years ago, the first studies were published effectively merging these two scientific approaches. Called the “dynamic clamp”, this experimental approach links together real-time computer simulations of ion channel kinetics with real-time measurements and stimulation from in vitro or in vivo neurons. This technique has created an entirely new paradigm for designing and interpreting electrophysiological experiments. In this talk I will document the rise of the use of this technique in all areas on single cell electrophysiology (neuroscience, cardiology, endocrinology) and highlight common applications of this technique. Software and hardware challenges will be briefly discussed, and I will describe an open-source platform, called RTXI (http://www.rtxi.org) developed by us and other collaborating laboratories. Finally, I will argue that this experimental approach can be extended to new fields of research, such as synthetic biology.

Biography

Robert Butera is a Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA. He is jointly appointed in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Wallace H. Coulter Dept. of Biomedical Engineering. His primary research is in the fields of neuroengineering, cellular and systems neuroscience, real-time instrumentation, and impedance-based tissue measurements. His laboratory combines computational modeling techniques with electrophysiology experiments. Dr. Butera is a senior member of IEEE Engineering in Biology Society (EMBS) and a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He is currently the Vice-President for Finance for IEEE-EMBS and served as an elected member of the EMBS AdCom (Board of Directors) from 2006-2010. From 2007-2010 he served as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems, and he is currently an Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering and the Journal of Theoretical Biology. At Georgia Tech he has served as Faculty Director of Graduate Studies (2009-11) and Director of the Bioengineering Graduate Program (2005-2008). During the 2008-9 year he served at the US Dept. of State as a Jefferson Science Fellow, working at the intersection of science policy and foreign policy. He is a past recipient of an NSF CAREER award (2004) and James S McDonnell Foundation 21st Century Scientist Award (2001).

Robert Butera received his BEE from Georgia Tech in 1991 and his PhD from Rice University in 1996. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, USA, in the Laboratory for Neural Control. He joined the faculty of Georgia Tech in 1999.