Behind-the-scenes @ Next Generation Neural Interfaces (NGNI) Lab

Wednesday 25th January 2017 @ 18:15

Timothy Constandinou, Reader in Neural Microsystems, Deputy Director of Centre for Bio-inspired Technology, Imperial College London

The lab applies cutting-edge microchip technology to develop next generation implantable devices that enable direct, "high resolution" communication with the nervous system. Such devices can "bypass" an injury or alleviate symptoms of a neurological condition, for example, allowing an amputee to control and feel their prosthetic hand, or assist those living with chronic conditions such as Epilepsy and Parkinson's.

With the current capability in micro-and nano-technologies, never before have there been so many opportunities to develop new devices that effectively interface with the nervous system. Neural interfaces range from wearable surface-electrode systems to fully implantable devices.

Neural prostheses use interfaces to bypass dysfunctional pathways in the nervous system, by applying electronics to replace lost function.

Next generation neural interfaces will enable direct, "high resolution" communication with the nervous system. The Next Generation Neural Interface (NGNI) group, led by Dr. Constandinou develops cutting edge neural interfaces, electronics and devices that enable new emerging scientific and prosthetic applications.

The full itinerary for this Behind-the-scenes is as follows:

18.00 - 18.15 Members arrive to Bessemer Building Level 4, South Kensington Campus, Imperial College London, location 11 on the map here

18:15 - 18:45 Introduction and short presentation by the group leader describing the state-of-the-art of the field. This will introduce the basics, describe what technology exists today, and what is in the pipeline for the future. The talk will end with a brief overview of their expertise, past and ongoing research.

18:45 - 19:45 Lab tour/demonstrations - Members will be split into four groups for the subsequent lab tours and demonstrations. Lab tours will visit all the facilities with brief overview of the ongoing work in biomedical devices (including genetics, cardiovascular, metabolic, infection, and cancer technology). Demonstrations will however focus specifically on their work in the Next Generation Neural Interfaces field.

The demonstrations to be showcased will be:
•    Overview of microelectronics design process. This will be led by an experienced chip designer that will describe, and demonstrate how chips are designed and manufactured using state-of-the-art Electronic Design Automation (EDA) Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools.
•    Retinal Prosthetics (SeeBetter project - recently concluded). This demonstration will showcase a Dynamic Vision Sensor (DVS) that works in a similar way to the human eye. Guests will be able to interact with the vision system and see how our eye processes visual information. Such sensors will be used in the future as part of a prosthesis to provide useful vision for the blind.
•    Neural Decoding (iPROBE project). This will showcase a recent microsystem we have developed (with work ongoing) that achieves real-time decoding of neural data towards a viable brain machine interface (devices that use natural thoughts to control an external device). Members will see what intracortical recordings look like, and how our system helps recover more information, and present it in a way that enables use in scientific applications.
•    Closed loop cortical control (CANDO project).This will demonstrate the latest microsystem for cortical control being developed for individuals with focal epilepsy. This combines techniques such as neural electrophysiology and the new field of optogenetics to realise a first of its kind implantable device. This project is targeting a first in man trial of the device in 2021.

19:45 - 20:30 The tour will end with an informal interactive session (with some drinks and bites) including the NGNI research team (10-15 researchers) with posters detailing the key ongoing projects.

These will include:
•    CANDO: Controlling Abnormal Network Dynamics with 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 - Neural interfaces will in the future need to observe the activity of many thousands of neurons. This will improve the effectiveness of neural decoding strategies by increasing the underlying information transfer rate. The availability of such a technology would be a true game changer, enabling new scientific and prosthetic applications. Our vision is that to achieve this, neural interfaces need to be distributed across multiple devices, each being autonomous and fully wireless. ENGINI is developing a new breed of mm-scale neural microsystems that directly tackle the grand challenges of long term stability, energy efficiency, and scalability.
•    Functional neuroimaging using ultra-wideband impulse radar - We will investigate the feasibility of using microwave techniques for non-invasive functional neuroimaging. Specifically, we will use a single chip implementation of an impulse-radio ultra-wideband (IR-UWB) radar system to detect changes in regional cerebral blood volume.
•    iPROBE: in-vivo Platform for the Real-time Observation of Brain Extracellular activity - We will develop 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.
•    Optical Neural Recording for Large-Scale Activity Monitoring - The aim of this project is to develop a method to detect neural activity optically without the use of any external marker, by measuring the changes in the refractive index of neurons during activity.
•    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.

Venue: Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology, Bessemer Building, Imperial College London

Campus Map reference 11
on the Imperial College London Map