BIOCHEMISTRY: Cellular Neural Engineering
Professor and Chair of Biomedical Engineering
Bharat Biswal, an internationally renowned researcher recognized for mapping the brain’s activity, joins the Newark College of Engineering as professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The National Institutes of Health supports the research of Dr. Biswal, who before coming to NJIT was a professor of radiology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The National Institute of Mental Health has cited his recent findings – published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – as the second most significant research advancement of 2010.
Fifteen years ago as a graduate student at The Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Biswal, who was working under the direction of his advisor, James S. Hyde, made a startling discovery: The brain, even during rest, contains information about the functional organization of the brain. He had used fMRI to study how different regions of the brain communicate while the brain is at rest and not performing any active task. At the time, Dr. Biswal’s research was questioned; however, more recently his neuroimaging technique has been widely replicated and used. Mapping the brain’s activity while the body is at rest helps doctors diagnose various diseases of the brain.
Dr. Biswal helped create the 1,000 Functional Connectomes Project, which gathers functional brain imaging data from centers around the world. The project created an open resource for mapping and understanding brain functions. The database includes information on 1,400 participants and Biswal is working to organize it so that researchers can search the data by demographic detail. Researchers from across the globe have downloaded this data more than 50,000 times. He says that careful characterization of gender or age-specific brain architecture can potentially help clinicians use an individual patient’s brain images to identify deviations in data from healthy patients in the same demographic. And that comparison could help clinicians to detect, early on, such conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Biswal has also recently co-founded the peer-reviewed journal Brain Connectivity and serves as a co-editor. It is considered to be one of the leading journals for researchers and clinicians interested in brain connectivity. His hope is that a new journal focusing solely on brain connectivity will foster greater research interest in this area. Another aim is to bring together researchers currently working on all aspects of brain connectivity to help accelerate the field and to assist doctors and clinicians to detect brain diseases.