The “Facebook” of the Mind: Reading from and Writing to Brain Networks

Date(s) - 03/17/2011
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Dr. Karim G. Oweiss - Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Neuroscience Program, Michigan State University

Fundamental to understanding how our world is represented in our brain is the ability to observe the collective activity of ensembles of neurons acting in concert while we associate sensory stimuli with ensuing motor actions. Some recent technological advances have greatly accelerated our ability to simultaneously record and selectively stimulate these ensembles, thereby opening up the possibility to further advance our understanding of the densely connected and rapidly adapting neuronal circuits, and to provide real time neural control of assistive Brain Machine Interfaces (BMIs) to people with severe sensory, cognitive and motor disabilities. Our present understanding, however, of the plastic information processing mechanisms in these networks – particularly those that mediate sensorimotor transformations in a BMI context – remain elusive.

In this talk, I will first discuss some of our recent efforts to characterize the dynamics of functional neural ensembles observed in vivo, and how changes in these dynamics during normal or pathological states can be monitored and quantified. I will follow with a brief discussion on the utility of this framework to increase the effectiveness of BMIs through selective microstimulation optimized using feedback control techniques to harness neural plasticity and achieve a desired functional outcome. I will conclude with a brief overview of our progress in engineering a wireless, bi-directional and fully implantable neural interface system that can readily be used in basic neuroscience research and clinical applications.