Research Director: Dr Timothy Constandinou
We are now entering a tremendously exciting phase in our quest to understand the human brain. With large-scale programmes like the US Presidential BRAIN
Initiative and the EU Human Brain Project, there is currently a huge appetite for new neurotechnologies and applications. We have already witnessed the impact made by devices such as cochlear implants and deep brain stimulators, with hundreds of thousands of individuals that have and are benefitting every day.
Soon, similar assistive technology will emerge for the blind, those suffering from epilepsy, and many others.
With the current capability in microtechnology, never before have there been so many opportunities to develop devices that effectively interface with the nervous system. Such devices are often referred to as neural interfaces or brain-machine interfaces and range from wearable surface-electrode systems to fully implantable devices. The interface typically uses an electrical connection (i.e. electrodes) to achieve the neural recording and/or stimulation utilising a variety
of techniques, including: electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), electrocorticography (ECoG) and direct interfacing using cuff electrodes or penetrating microelectrode arrays (MEAs). Neural prostheses use such interfaces to bypass dysfunctional pathways in the nervous system, by applying electronics to replace lost function. Our research at the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology is aimed, ultimately at developing such devices to provide neural rehabilitation by exploiting the integration capability and scalability of modern semiconductor technology.
Ongoing Research Projects
AnaeWARE (Monitoring awareness during anaesthesia – a multi-modal approach). The project will involve the collection of anonymous multi-modal signals from patients undergoing elective surgery at Hammersmith Hospital, London. The data will be analysed in order to identify how anesthetic administration affects the relationships between the different modalities and investigate whether such changes provide increased discriminatory power between wakefulness and anesthesia, or even prediction of wakefulness.
CANDO (Controlling Abnormal Network Dynamics using Optogenetics). A world-class, multi-site, cross-disciplinary project to develop a cortical implant for optogenetic neural control. Over seven years the project will progress through several phases. Initial phases focus on technology design and development, followed by rigorous testing of performance and safety. The aim is to create a first-in-human-trial in the seventh year in patients with focal epilepsy.
ENGINI (Empowering Next Generation Implantable Neural Interfaces). It is currently estimated that if we were able to record electrical activity simultaneously from between 1,000 and 10,000 neurons, this would enable useful prosthetic control (e.g. of a prosthetic arm). However, rather than relying on a single, highly complex implant and trying to cram more and more channels in this (the current paradigm), the idea here is to develop a simpler, smaller, well-engineered primitive and deploy multiple such devices. It is essential these are each compact, autonomous, calibration-free, and completely wireless.
I2MOVE (Intelligent implantable modulator of Vagus nerve function for treatment of obesity). The i2MOVE project is about tackling obesity. In this project, we are designing a bio-inspired implant that will serve as a novel treatment for obesity. The aim is to target the vagus nerve which transmits information between the gut and the brain. By stimulating the vagus nerve with electrical impulses, the implant will mimic the natural satiety signals produced after a meal, providing the patient with a means of appetite control.
iPROBE (in-vivo Platform for the Real-time Observation of Brain Extracellular activity). We are developing a methodology to record simultaneously from thousands of neurons spread over multiple structures of the living brain, and deliver a next generation neural recording platform to the international scientific community. This platform will exceed the current state-of-the-art by over an order of magnitude, providing a completely unprecedented understanding of how huge networks of individual neurons interact in time and space to support brain functions.
SenseBack (Enabling Technologies for Sensory Feedback in Next-Generation Assistive Devices). The goal of this project is to develop technologies that will enable the next generation of assistive devices to provide truly natural control through enhanced sensory feedback. To enable this level of feedback, we must meet two clear objectives: to generate artificial signals that mimic those of the natural arm and hand, and to provide a means of delivering those signals to the nervous system of a prosthesis user.