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Dr. Schwartz Publishes “Laser Scalpel” Findings in Cerebral Cortex

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Chris Schaffer & Dr. Theodore Schwartz

A collaboration between Dr. Theodore Schwartz at Weill Cornell Medicine and Dr. Chris Schaffer at Cornell University in Ithaca has resulted in a paper in the publication Cerebral Cortex. In the paper, co-authored by Dr. Mingrui Zhao and titled “In Vivo Femtosecond Laser Subsurface Cortical Microtransections Attenuate Acute Rat Focal Seizures,” they demonstrated a new technique that used a “laser scalpel.” Their work was funded by a $100,000 grant awarded by the Weill Cornell Daedalus Fund for Innovation in September 2015.

The Daedalus Fund allowed the team to develop the “laser scalpel” described in the abstract. It uses tightly focused infrared pulses at only a femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) in duration as a way to sever neural connections around the seizure’s epicenter—preventing it from spreading. 

The collaboration between Dr. Schwartz lab in New York City with Dr. Schaffer’s lab in Ithaca is the fruit of a department-wide emphasis on intercampus collaboration. “We have so much brain power and resources on both campuses—it is amazing what we can do together,” says Dr. Philip Stieg, the chairman of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine. 

The Weill Cornell Medicine Daedalus Fund for Innovation was established to support early-stage research projects and expedite developments beneficial to the public. The fund supports key experiments that are aimed at generating a new technology commercially viable. 

Cerebral Cortex is a multidisciplinary journal that covers modern neuropsychological and neurobiological techniques. It publishes papers on the organization, development, plasticity, and function of the cerebral cortex.

Other members of the team who co-authored the paper include Shivathmihai Nagappan, Lena Liu, Robert Fetcho, John Nguyen, Nozomi Nishimura, Ryan Radwanski, Seth Lieberman, Eliza Baird-Daniel, and Hongtao Ma.

Read the abstract