University of Minnesota
IGERT-Neuroengineering Training Program

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Bi-Directional Brain Interfacing

Neural interfacing systems have great promise to augment nervous system function. The concept of a neural interfacing system has been demonstrated recently in the form of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) or brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), which enable individuals to use their own brain signals to control an external device through decoding, translating, and actuating.

Video (Left): Doud AJ, Lucas JP, Pisansky MT, He B (2011) Continuous Three-Dimensional Control of a Virtual Helicopter Using a Motor Imagery Based Brain-Computer Interface. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26322. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026322. Figure (Right): Concept of brain-computer interface for closed-loop control of a virtual helicopter and prosthetic arm from decoding of non-invasive brain signals of a human subject [Doud et al, 2011].

However, brain interfacing systems of the future – those that can sense and control biological function with a number of degrees of freedom and can become truly integrated parts of the human body – will require concerted efforts between engineering and neuroscience disciplines. Fundamental innovations are needed to advance bi-directional brain interfacing systems beyond the research laboratory setting, including development of novel implantable and wearable technologies, real-time closed-loop control strategies, and well-controlled experimental investigations that account for the dynamic, non-linear, and adaptable nature of the brain. Closed-loop bi-directional brain interface systems have significant potential to improve the efficiency, efficacy, and general applicability of brain-device systems for enhancing and restoring brain function.

This IGERT research theme is aimed at advancing the state of the art of neural interfacing systems, including:

  1. Development of novel transducers that can decode and modulate neural activity continuously and chronically

  2. Development of novel processing and control algorithms for bi-directional neural interfacing systems

  3. Translating bi-directional brain interfacing systems to human studies.

IGERT fellows will have opportunities to develop novel neural interfacing systems and evaluate them in animal models and human subjects. Students will be trained in the fundamentals of bi-directional brain interfacing approaches through a new core course entitled Neural Decoding and Interfacing, which will guide them through the fundamental principles and approaches of neural interfacing.