DARPA to support development of human brain-machine interfaces

DURHAM, N.C. -- Devices including "neuroprosthetic" limbs for paralyzed people and "neurorobots" controlled by brain signals from human operators could be the ultimate applications of brain-machine interface technologies developed under a $26 million contract to Duke University sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The contract is part of DARPA's Brain-Machine Interfaces Program (www.darpa.mil/dso/thrust/sp/bmi.htm), which seeks to develop new technologies for augmenting human performance by accessing the brain in real time and integrating the information into external devices. Principal investigator for the DARPA project will be Professor of Neurobiology Miguel Nicolelis (www.nicolelislab.net). Co-PIs are Craig Henriquez, who is the W.H. Gardner Jr. Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Professor of Neurosurgery Dennis Turner and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Patrick Wolf. Other center collaborators include John Chapin of the State University of New York, Brooklyn, Jose Principe of the University of Florida, Mandayam Srinivasan of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvey Wiggins of Plexon Inc. in Dallas.

The DARPA support will help launch Duke's Center for Neuroengineering, co-directed by Nicolelis and Henriquez, whose scientists and engineers will seek to pioneer a new technological era in which brain signals could control machines that augment and extend human capabilities in a way never before possible.

Besides development of brain-controlled prosthetic limbs, neurosurgeons could apply brain-mapping enabled by the new technologies to aid surgeons in distinguishing healthy brain tissue from that which is part of a tumor or a focus for epileptic seizures.

"This technology can immediately increase the resolution with which surgeons can map the extent of a tumor or a specific brain region,

Contact: Dennis Meredith
Duke University

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