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DACCPM Researcher Receives New Innovator Award

Researcher Patrick Purdon has received the prestigious 2009 NIH Director's New Innovator Award.

The award is "designed specifically to support only a small group of unusually creative early stage investigators with highly innovative research ideas at an early stage of their career," according to the NIH website.

Patrick Purdon

Purdon was one of 50 researchers across the country to receive an award for his proposed project, which will develop new methods for monitoring anesthesia and drug delivery.

"Today's anesthetic brain monitors try to summarize all brain function in a single number from 0 to 100, but there's a lot more going on in the brain than just one number," he said.

"We want to develop monitors that provide physiologically detailed information about brain activity under anesthesia, and then we want to use this information to guide drug administration, to provide a more precise anesthetic with fewer side effects."

Initially, Purdon's team will study electroencephalogram (EEG) in combination with functional MRI, magnetoencephalogram (MEG), and other measurements of brain activity during general anesthesia. The idea is to pair clinically observable EEG with other measurements of brain activity that provide complementary information.

If correlates could be found between EEG and these other measures of brain activity under anesthesia, it might then be possible to interpret the EEG in a neurophysiologically specific manner, Purdon said.

"The hope is that these experiments will reveal patterns of brain activity visible in the EEG that will tell us where the drugs are acting in the brain, and how deeply anesthetized patients are," he said. "In the longer term, drug delivery techniques, combined with knowledge of these brain activity patterns, could be used to deliver drugs to specific areas of the brain. Along the way, we may also learn a thing or two about the brain mechanisms for consciousness and arousal."

Purdon has received $1.5 million in direct costs to fund the five-year project.

The multidisciplinary team includes DACCPM researchers Emery Brown, Eric Pierce, John Walsh, Grace Harrell, Michele Szabo, and Bob Peterfreund; Sydney Cash from Neurology; Emad Eskandar from Neurosurgery; and Matti Hamalainen and Giorgio Bonmassar from the MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging.

Purdon said he is honored to receive the award.

"This program allows us to take a more innovative approach to anesthesia research, with tremendous flexibility in how we carry out the research, in a way that isn't possible with traditional funding mechanisms," he said. "It gives us so much more creative freedom. I'm really fortunate to be working on these problems at a point in time when support mechanisms like this exist."

Related Links

Faculty profile: Patrick Purdon

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