In the spotlight: neuroengineering

N. Thakor
2009 IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering  
N EUROENGINEERING as a discipline continues to grow rapidly, expanding into new scientific frontiers as innovative technologies are developed for research and for clinical applications. The "hot" areas, at least as measured by popularity and visibility, continue to be the fields of brain-computer interface (BCI) or brain-machine interface (BMI), the application of BMI to neural prosthesis, deep brain stimulation (DBS), neural interface technologies, and brain imaging. While this list is
more » ... y not exclusive, the choice of speakers and the subject of their talks explored at major national and international conferences evidence popularity of these topics. This article reviews some of the highlights of what has been covered and explored at various conferences and published in major journals. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology, the premier conference in the field of Biomedical Engineering, took place in Minneapolis, MN, in August 2009, and featured a plenary talk by Dr. Gary Glover from Stanford University on "MR imaging of brain function: Challenges, opportunities and questions." Glover reviewed the state of the art technology of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as well as exciting emerging applications in the social sciences as well as biosciences. Among the emerging applications include the fields of economics (neuromarketing), lie detection, psychoanalysis, and biofeedback. At the same time, Glover illuminated the ethical questions of misuse and exaggerated claims reached using these techniques. In the Neuroengineering Track of the conference, Dr. Andrew Schwartz from Pittsburgh University gave a keynote talk on "Useful signals from motor cortex" where he described how animals could control robots' movement with direct brain control in a self-feeding task. Schwartz described his study in which monkeys controlled a robotic arm continuously in 3-D space to reach out to food and retrieve it to their mouths [1] . He summarized the research that increasingly demonstrates that neurons provide a high fidelity representation of the intended behavior of the limb. This basic work in primates lays the foundation for providing natural movement in prosthetic limbs. Dr. Jose Principe from University of Florida gave a keynote talk on "Toward cognitive neuroprosthesis" that reviewed his team's recent work on a new "co-adaptive" close loop paradigm for brain machine interfaces (BMIs) based on reinforcement learning. The co-adaptive model of BMI utilizes an environment wherein the computer algorithms as well as the brain of the subject are interactive: the computer algorithm would learn and adapt based on subject behavior, and the subject, rodent brain in this case, would learn and adapt from interactions with the environment. The IEEE Special Topics Conference in Neural Engineering took place in Turkey in May of 2009. The Plenary Speaker, Dr. Jack Gallant, gave a talk on "Let's see what you think! Bayesian reconstruction of perceptual experiences from human brain activity." Gallant presented a new Bayesian decoding model that can reconstruct natural images that were seen by an observer from the brain activity measured using fMRI. This is an exciting area of research going beyond the conventional BMI to explore whether brain signals or images themselves represent or describe the world "as the brain sees." Reverse engineering the fMRI may help clarify how distinct representations in different parts of the brain can be combined to provide a coherent reconstruction of the visual world and open the window into how brain processes visual perception. A second plenary speaker, Dr. Arto Nurmikko, presented "Developments in implantable wireless cortical interfaces for neural prosthetics." The technology for neural interface and recording continues to progress rapidly. Nurmikko's talk selectively highlighted microscale neural probes and wireless implantable active microchips. He presented the challenge of building transcutaneous telemetry systems for "broadcasting" multichannel neural signals. He also presented the recent advances in recording and deciphering 1937-3333/$26.00
doi:10.1109/rbme.2009.2034697 pmid:22275040 fatcat:75nuepikmbgdrosuzqxn3iuqqm