MAR 13, 2019 1:20 PM PDT

Innovative Neurotechnologies: Merging Minds and Machines: Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) to Restore Movement and Communication for People with Paralysis

Presented at: Neuroscience 2019
C.E. Credits: P.A.C.E. CE Florida CE
  • Founding Director of the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering
      Prof. John P. Donoghue is one of the most recognized researchers in the field of neuroengineering and considered one of the founding fathers of the merger between neuroscience and cybernetics. He is best known for his work on human brain computer interfaces, as well as for research on brain function and plasticity. He is the founding Director of the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering, based at Campus Biotech in Geneva, Switzerland.
      He founded the Brown Institute of Brain Science at Brown University (Rhode Island, USA) where he spent more than 30 years and where he maintains a professorship. He holds an adjunct professorship at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and is a visiting professor at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) in Switzerland. Prof. Donoghue was also a co-founder of an early neurotechnology startup company, Cyberkinetics. In 2013 his BrainGate neurotechnology, that aims to restore movement for people with paralysis, was recognised by the first Israel B.R.A.I.N. (Breakthrough Research And Innovation in Neurotechnology) prize, as well as the German Zülch ('zoolk') in 2007, the Roche-Nature Medicine in 2010, and the Schrödinger prize in 2012. Prof. Donoghue is a Fellow of several academies including the US Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Science, the American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Academy of Inventors. He was also a member of the National Institutes of Health Committee for The White House BRAIN Initiative. He has spoken worldwide, including lectures at the World Economic Forum, the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Science and an Alfred Nobel Symposium. His work has been widely featured in the media, including the New York Times, the Economist, the Financial Times, as well as US and international television.


    Neurotechnology promises a way to repair the damaged nervous system that requires a merger of neuroscience, engineering and clinical knowledge.  Brain Computer Interfaces can now read out the intention to move through a tiny brain interface connected to a computer. Algorithms, based on our understanding of brain activity can decode patterns of neural activity into useful action commands. These commands can already  operate computers for communication, robots to act as a surrogate arm, or even reanimate a paralyzed limb, allowing people to type or reach and grasp with their own arm and hand.  Decoding is possible because of years of inquiry into the way non-human primate brains encode complex movements, and sensors can function years in the brain because of neuroengineering advances made in animal research.   Despite these advances control by people with paralysis is slow and less dexterous than in a typical person, because we lack an adequate 'theory of brain function'  and optimal electrodes for sampling neural activity.  BCIs are not yet capable of home use because we need to create novel implantable, miniaturized processors that can communicate large amounts of information at high speed from the brain to the body or machines.  But these obstacles are being overcome as well.  As these advances emerge, we are moving towards reaching a vision where a person paralyzed from stroke, spinal cord or brain injury, or neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, will be able to resume everyday, independent life.  

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