We are now entering a tremendously exciting phase in our quest to understand the human brain. With large-scale programmes like the US BRAIN Initiative, EU Human Brain Project, Japanese Brain/MINDS, China Brain Project, etc, there is currently a huge appetite for new neurotechnologies. There is also, more recently a concerted effort (e.g. Galvani BioelectronicsNIH SPARCDARPA HAPTIX) on bioelectronic medicine (or electroceuticals) with devices targeting individual fascicles or nerve fibers within the peripheral nervous system to treat an array of conditions.

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. Bioelectronic medicine will furthermore provide targeted therapy to a range of conditions that have not normally been associated with the nervous system. These could range from allergies, migraines, asthma and obesity all the way up to hypertension, infertility and possibly even cancer.

With the current capability in microtechnology, never before have there been so many opportunities to develop advanced 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 systems to fully implantable devices. Neural prostheses use such interfaces to bypass dysfunctional pathways in the nervous system, by applying electronics to replace lost function.

Our Focus

Bessemer and EEE Buildings at Imperial College London

Research at the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology is developing such assistive technology (more generally, also for genetic, metabolic, infection, cancer applications) by exploiting the integration capability and scalability of modern semiconductor technology.

Our research at the Next Generation Neural Interfaces (NGNI) Lab is creating innovative neurotechnologies to enable communication between the nervous system and electronic devicesOur ultimate goal is to develop medical devices that interface with neural pathways for restoring lost function in sensory, cognitive and motor impaired patients.

We are working on addressing the following 10 key technology challenges:

  1. Scalability - to interface to more neurons/nerve fibers;
  2. Selectivity - to be able to target specific neurons/nerve fibers;
  3. Signal processing - to extract useful information (not raw data);
  4. Bandwidth optimization - to communicate more information;
  5. Energy efficiency - to reduce power requirements;
  6. Power delivery - to transfer power in an efficient way;
  7. Wireless connectivity - to communicate information without wires;
  8. Miniaturization - to make devices smaller and less intrusive;
  9. Biocompatibility - to ensure devices do not cause harm;
  10. Packaging - to protect devices from the body.