I’ve been invited to give a tutorial on computational neuroscience during the VIII course of the International School of Bioelectromagnetics “Alessandro Chiabrera”: Electromagnetic Fields and the Nervous System: Biological Effects, Biophysical Mechanisms, Methods, and Medical Applications. This course is organized with COST Action BM1 309 and will be held on 11-16 April, 2016 in Erice, Italy.

About the course

The nervous system is likely one of the major targets for EMF effects, due to its electrical activity and its role in the body response to external stimuli. In the last decades, several investigations have been focused on the effects of ELF or RF fields at cellular, tissue or whole-body levels, both in animals and humans. The research emphasis on the nervous system greatly increased following the introduction of mobile telephones, due to the vicinity of the electromagnetic source to the brain during conversation. In addition to the open question about the health risk related to field exposure, a number of medical applications have been proposed or developed, including nerve regeneration, cancer therapy, analgesia, treatments for depression, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, etc. Despite all these studies and the interesting future perspectives concerning medical applications, the mechanisms underlying the effects of EMF on the nervous system, with the exception of thermal effects, are still unclear, and much work remains to be done. Recent progress in EMF therapeutics in the nervous system has led to regulatory approval for several devices. However, it must be stressed that there is also a grey landscape, consisting of many therapeutic devices currently present on the market, although lacking scientific support and adequate clinical evidence. These devices are often publicized by paramedical centres and used by medical doctors, mostly in the context of the so-called alternative medicine. In this context, it is particularly important to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, in order to clarify the situation and to identify the gaps in our present knowledge, future perspectives and research needs.

The course is intended to give a general overview of this topic, including biological effects, biophysical mechanisms, present medical applications and future perspectives. Particular attention will be paid to the methodology in this specific field of research.