BME 620



   Course Description
   Course Syllabus

Fall 2005




Last modified on
10/09/2006 12:26



Applied Electrophysiology – BME 620

Course Description – Fall 2006

Course Goal & Learning Objectives

This course is intended to provide the theoretical basis and applied design principles for medical devices and instrumentation that interact with electrically excitable tissues of the body:

         Excitable tissues include cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle, and central and peripheral neurons involved in sensing, control of movement and control of autonomic functions.

         Instrumentation includes therapeutic devices (pacemakers, defibrillators, cochlear implants, epidural stimulators, transcutaneous electrical stimulators, functional neuromuscular stimulators) and diagnostic devices (electrocardiography, electromyography, electroencephalography and other aspects of clinical neurophysiology).


After successfully completing this course, the student should be able to:

         Estimate the feasibility of recording and stimulating any electrophysiological signal from first principles of biophysics.

         Describe the working principles of all currently available medical devices for therapeutic modulation of neural signals.

         Identify technological and biological limitations in the treatment of clinical disorders of the heart, motor control and special senses.

         Record and analyze common electrophysiological signals, including ECG, EMG and EEG.


Teaching Team

Primary Instructor: Gerald E. Loeb, M.D.

Teaching Assistants & Cardiac Lecturers: Hilton M. Kaplan, M.D. & Djordje Popovic, M.D.

Guest Lecturers: James Weiland, Ph.D. (visual system); Robert Shannon, Ph.D. (auditory system);

Ted Berger, Ph.D. (cortical interfaces); Nicholas A. Sachs, M.S. (oculomotor control).


Source Material

Primary Text: "Principles of Neuroscience" by Kandel, Schwartz and Jessell (ed.), McGraw-Hill, 4th ed., 2000.

Additional Text: "Bioelectromagnetism - Principles & Applications of Bioelectric & Biomagnetic Fields" by Jaakko Malmivuo & Robert Plonsey, Oxford University Press, New York, 1995 (Web version).



Although there is no homework in the traditional sense, IT IS ESSENTIAL FOR ALL STUDENTS TO READ ALL OF THE BACKGROUND MATERIAL BEFORE COMING TO CLASS FOR EACH DISCUSSION, as it is posted in the online syllabus. This course is taught by Socratic Method (see below), in which the lecturer asks leading questions to get the students to produce the material to be learned. All students are expected to be familiar with and WILL BE CALLED UPON TO PRESENT both the basic physiology and the basic electronics relevant to each topic so that the discussion can focus on the research and design problems for the clinical applications.



First Exam – 20%

Designed to calibrate your study methods.

Final Exam – 40%

Will cover ALL material covered in all seminars.

Lab Notebook – 20% (Participation in seminar discussions for BME 599 students)

Each student will keep a laboratory notebook in which he/she records experimental objectives, methods, protocols, parameters, file information and key data. Lab notebooks must be completed “in real time”. They will be collected for grading at the end of each experimental session and returned at the next session for discussion. Grading will be based on the sufficiency and clarity of the recorded information to permit the experiment to be replicated.

Report – 20%

Each student will prepare a feasibility analysis for a novel electrodiagnostic or therapeutic modality of his/her choice. This must include an executive summary (1 p), a brief review of the relevant physiology and pathology (1-2 pp), the high level design of the proposed device or instrument (1-2 pp plus figures), and a prioritized summary of the major scientific and technological risks in realizing the product (1-2 pp).



Lecture room and teaching laboratory with LCD projection.


Other Readings

See the online syllabus for supplemental materials and sources.


Socratic Method

The Socratic method of inquiry, also called the elenchos, as well as elenchus, or elench, was introduced by Socrates in order to discover the truth. It was first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues.

The Socratic method is a negative method of truth-seeking, in that truth is found by steadily identifying and eliminating that which is not true. The method of Socrates is a search for the underlying assumptions, or axioms, which may unconsciously shape one's opinion, and to make them the subject of scrutiny, to determine their truth or falsity. The basic form is a series of questions formulated as tests of logic and fact intended to help a person or group discover the truth about some topic. A skillful teacher can actually teach students to think for themselves using this method. This is the only classic method of teaching that is known to create genuinely autonomous thinkers.

There are some crucial principles to this form of teaching:

                     The teacher must set the topic of instruction, and the student must agree to this.

                     The student must agree to attempt to answer questions from the teacher.

                     The teacher must be willing to accept any correctly-reasoned answer. That is, the reasoning process must be considered

more important than facts.

                     The teacher's questions must expose errors in the students' reasoning. That is, the teacher must reason more quickly and

correctly than the student, and discover errors in the students' reasoning, and then formulate a question which the students

cannot answer except by a correct reasoning process. To perform this service, the teacher must be very quick-thinking

about the classic errors in reasoning.

                     If the teacher makes an error of logic or fact, it is acceptable for a student to correct the teacher.

It is helpful if the teacher is able to lead a group of students in a discussion. This is not always possible in situations that require the teacher to evaluate students, but it is preferable pedagogically, because it encourages the students to reason for truth rather than from authority.

More loosely, one can label any process of thorough-going questioning as an instance of the Socratic method.