The third episode of the second season of our online UT talk show Campus Talks focused on the human brain. How does our brain work? How do we respond to setbacks? And how can we employ technological interventions to repair or perfect brain cell function? This episode looked at deep brain stimulation, and also at a promising development that could help coma patients wake up earlier and better.
In this edition of Campus Talks, philosopher of technology and host Peter-Paul Verbeek discussed the human brain with three UT scientists. One, Dr Femke Nijboer of the Biomedical Signals and Systems research group, is working on brain computer interfaces, e-health, and neurotechnology. These involve some sophisticated technical feats, but Nijboer is also a very practical person. She frequently works together with people who have suffered brain damage, and together with one of these patients – Paul Trossèl, who has locked-in syndrome – she recently co-authored a book on dealing with setbacks. The suggestions they put forward are more widely applicable than just for those with a disability or an illness: they can also help people deal with a divorce or being rejected, or with a reduced enjoyment of life because of the pandemic.
Dr Ciska Heida, another member of the Biomedical Signals and Systems research group, does research on the activation of brain cells through deep brain stimulation, an intervention that requires the utmost care and precision but which can yield astonishing results. Professor Jeannette Hofmeijer also made an appearance, in a short clip. She is a neurologist at the Rijnstate Hospital in Arnhem and conducts research at UT into the activation of brain cells in comatose patients. There is hope on the horizon: it appears that an endogenous neurotransmitter can be employed to stimulate the brain in this way.
In his regular column Show me the data!, student Erik Kemp demonstrated how the recent election results can be visualised, as well as those of earlier Dutch elections. The cultural student association UTmost (jazz and big band music) played several energetic pieces inspired by the episode’s ‘brain and technology’ theme.