The research program in neuroengineering seeks to use engineering and physical science principles to understand the nervous systems circuit operation and build novel devices to interface with this circuitry. Researchers in this area draw on and integrate the fields of bioengineering, robotics, neural networks, neural engineering, biomechanics, neuroprosthetics, neurorobotics, information theory and coding principles in spike trains, population coding in neural representations, computational neuroscience, neural simulation and modeling, and 'wet' electrophysiology and neurophysiology. Building interfaces to the nervous system and building 'Brain Machine Interfaces' (BMI) provides novel circuit analysis tools for neuroscience, and enables novel prosthetics, novel rehabilitation methods and novel human interfaces for augmented function.
Research efforts focus on four areas. First, there is an emphasis on understanding spinal motor control using basic neurophysiology and biomechanics (Dr. Giszter and Dr Lemay), Hodgkin-Huxley models (Dr Rybak) and spinal cord injury models (Dr. Lemay, and Dr. Giszter). A second goal is to develop neuroprosthetics for treatment of spinal cord injury and movement disorders using neural microstimulation, (Dr. Lemay), and fiberoptic uncaging of neurotransmitters in deep brain stimulation (Dr. Giszter, Dr. Lemay, Dr. Ellis-Davies, Dr. Moxon and Dr. Simansky). Third, we examine cortical encoding and functional plasticity using multi-electrode recording and microstimulation in spinal cord injury models (Dr. Giszter and Dr. Moxon). Finally there is an emphasis on Brain Machine Interface and neurorobotics using multi-electrode recording (Dr. Moxon, and Dr. Giszter) and fiberoptic neurotransmitter uncaging for sensorimotor feedback (Dr. Giszter, Dr. Lemay, Dr. Ellis-Davies, Dr. Moxon and Dr. Simansky). Work is conducted collaboratively between laboratories in departments of Neurobiology and Anatomy, and Physiology and Pharmacology in the College of Medicine, and the School of Bioengineering and Health Systems.
The ultimate goal of this research effort is to obtain a deeper understanding
of the design and function of circuitry supporting motor behaviors and sensory
processing, and to understand its adaptation and plasticity. The natural outcome
of this understanding will be improved treatment, improved rehab therapy, and
novel prosthetics and assistive devices to overcome deficits due to various
neurological diseases and stroke.