Jon Erickson | Washington and Lee University | Department of Physics and Engineering

Guts, Bugs, and Brains

My lab pursues projects at the boundary of engineering and biology.  Bioelectricity is the common theme to the the three lines of research described below. Selected publications are listed at the bottom of this page.

Gastrointestinal Electrical Activity Patterns:  We develop automated signal processing techniques analyze the big data sets resulting from high-resolution electrical recordings.  Our fully automated algorithms can: remove motion and other contaminating artifacts; identify slow waves and group them into individual propagating wavefronts; and identify spike bursts. We are also developing low-cost, open-source wireless hardware for gastrointestinal mapping studies. This research is a collaboration with the Auckland Bioengineering Institute. These algorithms are available in the user friendly data viewing and analysis GEMS software package..


Bottom: 2nd order surface models clusters points belonging to one slow wave wavefront in porcine stomach.  Top: Isochrone contour maps illustrate patiotemporal spread of electrical activity for five successive wave fronts.

Hybrid-Insects Robots (Biobots): We design strategies and build neural-electric interfaces to control locomotion in various insects.  We have studied and defined optimal stimulus parameters (amplitude, frequency, duration, waveform type) for piloting Madagascar hissing cockroaches along a desired path. We recently published a journal article describing our findings. Our current work focuses on wireless tracking of biobot cockroaches as they move through a 3-D maze. We have also previously made grasshoppers hop on command


Left: Madagascar hissing cockroach (G. portentosa) implanted with thin micro electrodes atop trackball. A pair of optical mice record the motion in response to neural-electric stimulus. Right: Prototype of 4 channel wireless stimulator based on Backyardbrains Roboroach. 

Neural Plasticity:  We have previously studied neural networks grown on multi-electrode arrays (yes, real living brain cells!) to understand how stimulation input sequences may alter network connectivity and information processing capability.


Left: Cultured neurons stained with Di-I beginning to richly network.  Right: Functional connectivity map.



Selected Publications




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