Caltech Young Investigators Lecture

Thursday April 15, 2021 4:00 PM

Coping with Trauma: Noninvasive Technologies for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Speaker: Nil Gurel
Location: Online Event


Traumatic events alter the body and the brain. Severe intrusive memories are a perpetuating clinical symptom in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), linked to abnormal autonomic functioning associated with it. Artificial modulation of nervous system activity has the potential to ameliorate the frequency and intensity of intrusive memories. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve using an implantable device is a potential treatment method to address such imbalance. Noninvasive vagal nerve stimulation (nVNS) devices offer inexpensive and low-risk alternatives to surgical implants, but their effects on the physiology are not well understood.

In this talk, I will be discussing nVNS for dampening physiological arousal to acute stress in PTSD, with investigations in multiple dimensions: downstream physiological effects, brain imaging, and biochemical biomarkers. I will particularly focus on real time physiological biomarkers of nVNS and their potential for closing the loop for personalized neuromodulation and titration of therapy. Finally, I will present an objective diagnosis methodology for PTSD, for which diagnostic methods rely on clinician-administered structured interviews.


Dr. Nil Gurel is a Postdoctoral Researcher at David Geffen School of Medicine, at UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia and Neurocardiology Research Center. She received her Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Georgia Tech, her M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park, MD as a Clark Fellow, and her B.S. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey. Her doctoral research involved noninvasive vagal nerve stimulation in the context of posttraumatic stress disorder. She is the recipient of Runner-up Best Paper Award from the 2018 IEEE Body Sensor Networks Conference, Best Paper Finalist Award from the 2018 IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference, and Runner-up Best Poster Award from the 2019 IEEE Biomedical Health Informatics Conference. She was recognized a Rising Star in EECS by MIT in 2018. Her research interests encompass physiological sensing and neuromodulation.

This talk is part of the Caltech Young Investigators Lecture Series, sponsored by the Division of Engineering and Applied Science.

Series Caltech Young Investigators Lecture Series

Contact: Christine C. Garske