Special Medical Engineering Seminar: Nikki Pelot
Speaking the Language of Autonomic Nerves
Bioelectronic medicines are therapies that apply electricity to the nervous system to treat diseases. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is used clinically to treat epilepsy, depression, and obesity, and is under investigation for heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, and stroke rehabilitation, among many other applications. Different electrical signals elicit different neural responses—such as 30 Hz VNS used for epilepsy and for depression versus 5000 Hz VNS used for obesity—and the signal parameters required to achieve a target response must be translated from preclinical studies to clinical application. Thus, we are developing computational models of VNS in different species and comparing the responses to in vivo electrophysiological data. These approaches allow quantification of intra- and inter-species differences in neural responses, understanding of mechanisms of action and model parameter sensitivities, as well as engineering design of device geometry and stimulation paradigms to achieve improved therapeutic effects and reduced side effects. https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikkipelot/; https://nikkipelot.weebly.com/
Biography: Nicole (Nikki) Pelot, PhD is Research Director at Duke University for Warren Grill's lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Nikki leads a team of researchers studying mechanisms of action of electrical stimulation and block of the autonomic nervous system for improved understanding, efficacy, and selectivity of existing therapies and for development of novel therapies. Her technical expertise includes computational modeling of biophysically realistic nerves and nerve fibers, as well as in vivo electrophysiology (neural stimulation, block, recording). Nikki earned her BEng in Electrical Engineering and BS in Physics from Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS, Canada) for which she was awarded the Governor-General's Silver Academic Medal, and she earned her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University. She contributed to multiple curricular elements at Duke, including serving as Grad Consul for the University Scholars Program, designing and running the first and second year seminar series for the Duke BME PhD students, and founding a peer mentoring program for the Duke BME PhD students. Outside of research and academic service, Nikki is also an advanced dancer and yoga practitioner, with a love for understanding how the body moves and how people find connection through movement.