Focus On Neural Interfaces Research

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NINDS Program Description

Neural interfaces are systems operating at the intersection of the nervous system and an internal or external device. Neural interfaces include neural prosthetics, which are artificial extensions to the body that restore or supplement function of the nervous system lost during disease or injury, and implantable neural stimulators that provide therapy. Neural interfaces are used to allow disabled individuals the ability to control their own bodies and lead fuller and more productive lives.

For over 30 years, the NINDS has supported grants and contracts on a number of areas within the neural interfaces field including, but not limited to: functional neuromuscular stimulation, deep brain stimulation, multi-electrode cuffs for nerve interfaces, cortical microelectrode arrays, biocompatibility of neural interfaces, implantable neural stimulators, and brain/computer interfaces..As the field has matured, neural interfaces have become part of a larger trans-NIH effort involving multiple Institutes and Centers including, but not limited to NINDSNIDCDNICHD, and NIBIB.

Find a program director to learn more.

A complete list of active NINDS-supported projects and abstracts is accessible through NIH RePORTER.

Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories

Research/Disease Areas* FY 2016
(Actual)
FY 2017
(Actual)
FY 2018
Estimated
(Enacted)
FY 2019
Estimated
Assistive Technology $296 $299 $316 $287

*Dollars in millions and rounded

Proceedings & Outcomes

Neural interfaces have already provided substantive benefits to individuals. For example, the NIH had a key role in the development of the cochlear implants, which bypasses damaged hair cells in the auditory system by direct electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve. In addition, neural interfaces that allow deep brain stimulation have been useful for some patients in reducing the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease.

Looking ahead, NINDS is also encouraging future progress in the field of neural interfaces that will result in assistive technologies to improve the quality of life by restoring motor and communicative functions for individuals with spinal cord injuriesamyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and stroke.

Among the goals of the NINDS effort is the development of totally implantable systems for restoring the motor control and sensory feedback for a paralyzed individualf. Significant progress is being made towards the development of motor prostheses for disabled individuals, particularly for upper limb control. It is anticipated that future efforts will combine subsystems for functional neuromuscular stimulation with neural interfaces that can detect signals in the brain associated with movement, such as implanted microelectrode arrays in the motor cortex. Potential emergent areas that are likely to impact the future of neural interfaces include nanotechnologies, novel bioactive materials, adaptive computational methods for multi-neuron analysis, and technologies that go beyond electrical stimulation of the nervous system to allow controlled inhibition.

Resources and Tools

A materials database identifies materials that have been investigated and tested for their use as encapsulation for implantable neural interface devices. The materials investigated include amorphous silicon carbide (a-SiCx:H), Parylene, silicone, and epoxy based resins. Data sets include insulation long-term stability and reliability data in wet ionic environments using accelerated ageing impedance spectroscopy and leakage current tests as well as various adhesion tests. The database not only contains the results from research conducted by the University of Utah, but also lists selected relevant data obtained from literature. For more information, please contact Dr. S. Kim or Dr. F. Solzbacher.

Provides the following resources for developing, testing and implementing neural interfaces: 1) manufacture and supply of nerve- and muscle-based stimulating and recording electrodes 2) neural modeling and analysis of interface designs 3) polymer and bioactive material development 4) microelectromechanical (MEMS) systems design and fabrication 5) rapid prototyping 6) pre-clinical in vitro and in vivo verification of electrode and neural interface performances 7) circuit and software design and 8) system validation and design control documentation. For more information, contact Dr. Ronald Triolo.

A Matlab/C Toolbox for Analyzing Brain Circuits. BSMART, an acronym of Brain-System for Multivariate AutoRegressive Timeseries, is an open-source software package for analyzing brain circuits. The package provides users with analytic tools to characterize, with high spatial, temporal, and frequency resolution, functional relations within large multi-channel neural data sets. A unique feature of the BSMART package is Granger causality that can be used to assess causal influences and directions of driving among multiple neural signals.

Written for a Windows PC environment, Cicerone allows co-registration of magnetic resonance imaging data, computed tomography images, 3D brain atlases, microelectrode recording data, and DBS electrode(s) to the neurosurgical stereotactic coordinate system.

Program that provides musculoskeletal models for the real-time, dynamic simulation of arm movement by direct muscle activation.

An online resource including open source data analysis software and a biomedical signal bank.

An open data specifications and software for neurophysiology.

A software toolbox for analysis of multichannel microelectrode array data.

MATLAB Tools for the analysis of multi-neuronal data recorded with multi-electrode arrays.

A forum for sharing software, data, and information related to EMG decomposition. The goals of this resource are to promote decomposition as a research tool and to promote exchange of EMG data, attention to accuracy, and algorithm innovation.