Where Brain and Machine Meet
Imagine a tiny microsensor implanted in someone’s brain, allowing that person to transfer their thoughts through the sensor and into a computer where they would appear as text on screen – opening a world of communication that previously had been cut off for patients with paralysis or other diseases.
Those types of innovations and medical breakthroughs were the topic of “Brain-Machine Interfaces in Health and Disease,” Kent State University’s 11th Annual Neuroscience Symposium, sponsored by the Brain Health Research Institute (BHRI). The symposium took place on Oct. 26-27, at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center, where the university welcomed a full slate of speakers and presenters from academia and private industry, who are national experts in the field of brain-machine interface.
Michael Lehman, Ph.D., director of Kent State’s Brain Health Research Institute, said the annual event has become increasingly important to the institute and its members, as a means of highlighting their research as well as helping members to make connections with others from throughout the world who share comment research.
“This symposium has been a hallmark event for our institute and for the neuroscience community at Kent State and our partner institutions,” he said.
The conference, which was attended by several hundred students, faculty and staff, began with a keynote address by Leigh Hochberg, M.D., Ph.D., whose research focuses on the development and testing of novel neurotechnologies to help people with paralysis and other neurologic disorders.
Hochberg is the L. Herbert Ballou University Professor of Engineering and professor of brain science at Brown University. He also is director of the Center for Neurotechnology and Neurorecovery in the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and a senior lecturer on neurology at Harvard Medical School. He serves as director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Service’s Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology in Providence, Rhode Island.
He is the the principal investigator of the BrainGate clinical trials, conducted by a consortium of scientists and clinicians at Brown, Emory University, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Providence VA, Stanford University and the University of California, Davis.
His presentation focused on the BrainGate research and included videos showing how sensors implanted in the brains of those with spinal cord injury or diseases, can result in brain-to-text handwriting on a screen, allowing such patients to communicate and improving the quality of their lives.
“We not only want to restore communication, we want to restore it tomorrow,” Hochberg said. “We’re on the road to being able to restore speech at the speed of typing.”
The event also featured a poster session, which showcased research from 49 student researchers who are Kent State students or members of the institute.
Lehman said he was pleased to see such an enthusiastic response to the session with so many students putting their research work on display. Learn more about the student research presented.