AAAS elects NJIT professor as Fellow for math modeling research on the brain


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will announce tomorrow that Robert Miura, PhD, a professor in the departments of mathematical sciences and biomedical engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), was elected a AAAS Fellow. Miura, who is also acting chair of NJIT's mathematical sciences department, is one of only four individuals this year to receive this honor in mathematics.

Miura's most recent accomplishments have been to develop mathematical models in neuroscience for cell dynamics. Earlier in his career, he solved the Korteweg-de Vries equation with mathematicians from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

"In contrast to the past century of successes in understanding the mechanisms responsible for physical phenomena," said Miura, "the complexity of biological phenomena and the synergy of mechanisms responsible for these phenomena have made the understanding of biological systems much more difficult. Mathematical modeling isolates and quantifies each mechanism and its contribution. The importance and ability of mathematical modeling to tease out these separate mechanisms is still not fully appreciated by most biological and biomedical scientists."

Miura works with biologists to help them better understand how and why a type of depressed brain activity induced in animals spreads as a slow, pathological wave. Researchers, who study this wave, call it "spreading cortical depression." The research is intended to help people who experience a related disease, better known as a spontaneous migraine headache. Such headaches are preceded by an odd visual pattern of light, called an aura, which disappears and about a half hour later is followed by the onset of migraine, which can last up to 48 hours.

"Spreading depression was discovered some 60 years ago by a Brazilian neuro-physiologist A. A. Leao, who was studying epilepsy." said Miura, "Yet today, little is known about these chemical waves in the brain, which is why using mathematical modeling is helpful." Miura also uses mathematical modeling to develop what he calls "designer microelectrodes" to help neurophysiologists create a better and more effective way of studying the electrical behavior of brain cells. "The tips of these electrodes must be extremely fine, about a micron in diameter," he said.

To solve the Korteweg-de Vries equation, Miura helped develop the inverse scattering method for solving nonlinear partial differential equations. The equation was originally published in 1895 by Dutch mathematicians Diederik Johannes Korteweg (1848-1941) and Gustav de Vries (1866-1934) at what is now the Technological Institute of Delft.

Miura recently co-authored "Spatial Buffering Mechanism: Mathematical Model and Computer Simulations," Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering, Volume 2 (2005); "Membrane Resonance and Stochastic Resonance Modulate Firing Patterns of Thalamocortical Neurons," Journal of Computational Neuroscience, Volume 16 (2004).

A Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (1980) and the Royal Society of Canada (1995), Miura joined NJIT in 2001. Prior to that, he spent 26 years at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, as a professor of mathematics.

Miura is co-editor-in-chief of the journal, Analysis and Applications and vice chair for the life sciences activity group of Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). He serves on the editorial boards of the Canadian Applied Mathematics Quarterly, Integrative Neuroscience, and SIAM Book Series on Monographs on Mathematical Modeling and Computation.

Miura received his BS and MS in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and his MA and PhD in aerospace and mechanical sciences from Princeton University.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Members are considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering group of their respective sections by three Fellows, or by the chief executive officer of AAAS. AAAS, founded in 1848, is the world's largTest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( Tomorrow's issue will announce all 365 of the 2005 AAAS Fellows.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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