Expanding neuroscience with engineering: studying brain waves in former nuclear bunker

August 14, 2021

Dr. Guy Dumont and Dr. John Steeves met as PWIAS Scholars in Residence in 2011 and have since developed a productive and ongoing collaboration. Dr. Dumont is a biomedical engineer interested in studying the brain’s electrical activity, and in particular gamma waves associated with large brain network activity. Gamma wave activity is linked to various cognitive processes, pain perception, and pathologies like depression and even autism. Dr. Steeves is a neuroscientist and expert on repair mechanisms for spinal cord injury.

Together, they designed novel experiments to measure brain waves at the Laboratoire Souterrain à Bas Bruit (LSBB) in the south of France.  A former Cold War-era nuclear bunker, LSBB is a unique underground research facility.  Its main attraction is a magnetically shielded, vibration-proof research chamber fortified by a two-metre thick wall of reinforced concrete and steel, making the facility ideal for highly complex, delicate experiments, particularly those involving electromagnetic waves.

“PWIAS definitely played a role [in this research]. It was at PWIAS that John and I decided to design a new study, which we performed in October 2014, with the results published in 2018.  That study confirmed and went beyond our previous findings.”


Using the LSBB lab for experiments measuring brainwaves and testing electroencephalography (EEG) equipment, Dr. Dumont says, “The EEG results we got were mind-blowing. We had never been able to obtain such clean EEGs in a hospital setting.”  Results of the study have been published in three open-access publications.  Further experiments at LSBB are planned once COVID-19 restrictions ease.

Laboratoire Souterrain à Bas Bruit (LSBB), France

This scientific collaboration has led to the creation of a joint UBC-CNRS (French National Scientific Research Centre) Laboratoire International Associé (LIA), through an agreement signed in January 2021 by UBC, CNRS and three affiliated French universities.

For more information on the UBC-CNRS agreement, please visit UBC News.
Feature image: Guy Dumont, John Steeves and Catherine Jutzeler (ETH Zürich) at LSBB in 2014