Abstract: In humans, connective tissue forms a complex, interconnected network throughout the body that may have mechanosensory, regulatory and signaling functions. Understanding these potentially important phenomena requires non-invasive measurements of collagen network structure that can be performed in live animals or humans. The goal of this study was to show that ultrasound can be used to quantify dynamic changes in local connective tissue structure in vivo. We first performed combined ultrasound and histology examinations of the same tissue in two subjects undergoing surgery: in one subject, we examined the relationship of ultrasound to histological images in three dimensions; in the other, we examined the effect of a localized tissue perturbation using a previously developed robotic acupuncture needling technique. In ten additional non-surgical subjects, we quantified changes in tissue spatial organization over time during needle rotation vs. no rotation using ultrasound and semi-variogram analyses. 3-D renditions of ultrasound images showed longitudinal echogenic sheets that matched with collagenous sheets seen in histological preparations. Rank correlations between serial 2-D ultrasound and corresponding histology images resulted in high positive correlations for semi-variogram ranges computed parallel (r = 0.79, p < 0.001) and perpendicular (r = 0.63, p < 0.001) to the surface of the skin, indicating concordance in spatial structure between the two data sets. Needle rotation caused tissue displacement in the area surrounding the needle that was mapped spatially with ultrasound elastography and corresponded to collagen bundles winding around the needle on histological sections. In semi-variograms computed for each ultrasound frame, there was a greater change in the area under the semi-variogram curve across successive frames during needle rotation compared with no rotation. The direction of this change was heterogeneous across subjects. The frame-to-frame variability was 10-fold (p < 0.001) greater with rotation than with no rotation indicating changes in tissue structure during rotation. The combination of ultrasound and semi-variogram analyses allows quantitative assessment of dynamic changes in the structure of human connective tissue in vivo.
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Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.
Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.
Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).