- Department of Neurological Surgery
Brain-computer interfaces for restoring lost abilities and fundamental human neuroscience
I co-direct the UC Davis Neuroprosthetics Lab together with Assistant Professor David Brandman, MD, PhD. Our group develops brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), which are electronic medical devices that are placed in the brain. BCIs are poised to profoundly transform human health by applying engineering principles to treat devastating – and currently incurable – nervous system injuries and diseases with precise, circuit-level measurements and interventions. This technology can potentially restore the ability to speak, move, remember and more. However, going from proof-of-concept studies in animal models to repairing or replacing patients’ damaged abilities requires a platform for understanding human-specific neural functions and designing, testing, and refining therapies in people. Our group’s strategy for accomplishing this is to develop advanced intracortical BCIs to restore speech for people who cannot speak (e.g., due to ALS or subcortical stroke) and to restore reach & grasp movements for people with paralysis (e.g., due to spinal cord injury or neurodegenerative diseases).
This research also provides a unique opportunity to study the human brain at the resolution of many simultaneously measured individual neurons, allowing us to more deeply understand the abilities we’re trying to restore. In parallel, we’re developing new human-use devices capable of reading from (and eventually writing to) thousands of neurons. We will incorporate these into our BCI program when the technology is sufficiently mature. This interplay of neuroengineering, medicine, and systems and computational neuroscience will allow us to build BCIs that are ever more effective and capable of treating a wider range of conditions.