AI News, Selected Honors

Selected Honors

am currently the Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab and the Stanford Vision Lab, where I work with the most brilliant students and colleagues worldwide to build smart algorithms that enable computers and robots to see and think, as well as to conduct cognitive and neuroimaging experiments to discover how brains see and think.

Prof. Fei Fei Li

am currently the Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab and the Stanford Vision Lab, where I work with the most brilliant students and colleagues worldwide to build smart algorithms that enable computers and robots to see and think, as well as to conduct cognitive and neuroimaging experiments to discover how brains see and think.

Make It Stop

These figures encompass conditions like Hyde's, as well as more common varieties—arthritis, unremitting back and neck pain, and recurrent migraines—that nevertheless take a profound toll on daily life.

In addition to the cost in human suffering, chronic pain costs the United States more than half a trillion dollars annually in direct medical expenses and lost productivity, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report (chaired by former School of Medicine dean Philip Pizzo).

Mounting evidence from several labs at Stanford suggests that regardless of the initiating injury, chronic pain involves telltale changes in the brain, spinal cord and possibly the immune system.

The probe feels hot, like it's burning the skin, but in reality the experiment is carefully controlled to avoid any actual damage or undue distress to the participants.

They all show that chronic pain patients have stronger connections among brain regions involved in pain perception and processing, as well as losses in gray matter in those areas and perturbations in brain chemistry compared to healthy individuals.

When they fed structural MRI pictures from patients with lower back pain and healthy controls into a computer, it was able to distinguish these groups with 76 percent accuracy, based largely on gray matter changes.

Working with colleagues at Lucas, Mackey, who has a PhD in electrical engineering, also perfected a technique to obtain functional imaging scans of the spinal cord (tricky because the spine shifts with every breath).

At a 2013 conference, his team presented preliminary evidence of amped-up connections in the spinal cord—which is responsible not only for routing messages to the brain but for sending inhibitory signals back to the body—that may play a role in chronic pain.

These technologies are not intended to replace a patient's subjective report of pain, typically rated on a scale from zero to 10 (10 being the worst agony imaginable).

Conversely, negative thoughts and emotions can lower a person's pain threshold, causing them to experience a given stimulus more intensely and creating a vicious feedback loop.

The volunteers were instructed to try to subdue the flames using a variety of mental strategies: equating them with a warm bath or visualizing a tranquil beach.

Mackey's team recently received a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to test real-time fMRI therapy (as well as other mind-body therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy) in a large randomized trial of patients with chronic lower back pain.

volunteers now learn to control multiple brain areas, patterns of brain activity, connections between brain systems and even pain pathways in the spine.

Johnson, a research associate in anesthesia, is demonstrating the potential of a technology called transcranial magnetic stimulation to precisely target and alter activity in specific areas of the brain.

He holds the device—which consists of a wand fixed to two pancake-sized magnetic coils—over his head, aimed at just the right spot in his motor cortex to make his fingers twitch.

More than a decade's worth of research has shown that repeatedly zapping the prefrontal cortex can affect mood, and in 2008 the FDA approved TMS for the treatment of major depression.

Following 30 minutes of treatment with the device, a hot probe was applied to each volunteer's arm for 10 minutes while his or her brain was scanned using positron emission tomography (PET).

For the most effective configuration, average pain scores went down 79 percent compared with a sham condition—from an average 5 or 6 out of 10 (relatively severe) to around 1 (minimal).

In five patients with fibromyalgia, an enigmatic syndrome in which the lightest touch can be excruciating, the same coil configuration reduced chronic pain by 43 percent.

But whereas drugs such as steroids and ibuprofen are effective at reducing peripheral inflammation, they don't easily cross into the brain or spinal cord and are thus ineffective for treating inflammation in the central nervous system.

In a 2013 study by Younger's team, 31 fibromyalgia patients treated with low doses of a drug called naltrexone that inhibits microglial cells in the CNS reported significantly less daily pain on average compared with a placebo pill.

The link between the immune system and chronic pain is an unfolding story that encompasses other types of chronic pain, including complex regional pain syndrome.

Hyde, who flies cross-country for bimonthly appointments at Stanford, says she's also benefitted from working with a multidisciplinary team of specialists including a physical therapist, a nutritionist and a pain psychologist who meet with Mackey to discuss her case.

Assistant professor of anesthesia Ian Carroll and his team are investigating whether giving certain drugs immediately before and after surgery can prevent pain from ever gaining a foothold.

Wow, that was pretty primitive compared with the treatments we have now.' ' Kristin Sainani, MS '99, PhD '02, is a freelance writer and clinical assistant professor in the department of health research and policy.