Seminar: Developing a High-Performance Intracortical Brain-Computer Interface for Individuals with Tetraplegia

Department of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering

Speaker: John Simeral
Assistant Professor of Research
School of Engineering at Brown University
Location: Kelley 102
Date/Time: Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 at 2 p.m.

Thousands of people live with tetraplegia or locked-in syndrome arising from spinal cord injury, stroke, ALS
(Lou Gehrig’s disease) or other neurological disorders. Conventional assistive devices for people with severe
motor disabilities are inherently limited because they rely on residual motor function which, for many, can
be unreliable or completely absent. The BrainGate Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) project aims to
deploying a safe, high-performance, high-availability assistive neural interface system for long-term use by
individuals with tetraplegia. Engineering development, coordinated across several institutions, includes the
design of implantable devices, machine learning algorithms, high bandwidth neural signal processing,
real-time computing, and mobile systems toward always-on availability. The evolving BrainGate platform is
being evaluated with people with tetraplegia in their homes, with 13 trial participants to date and over 8,000
days of implanted microelectrodes cumulative across all participants. This talk will review current system
performance, some of the innovations to date, and engineering work in progress enabling a forward-looking
roadmap to clinical utility.
Dr. Simeral is an Assistant Professor of Research with the School of Engineering of Brown University
and a Research Biomedical Engineer with the Rehabilitation R&D Service of the Department of
Veterans Affairs at the Providence VA Medical Center. His research is dedicated to integrating
neuroscience and engineering disciplines to create effective neural prosthetic technologies that enable
high-performance communication and control of assistive devices by individuals with paralysis or
locked-in syndrome resulting from spinal cord injury, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), stoke and other
neurological disorders. He directs development of the architecture, hardware and software for the
BrainGate Neural Interface System (in clinical trial) that decodes human intracortical brain signals into
commands to control computer cursors, dexterous prosthetic robotic arms and hands, and other assistive
technologies. This research is also developing new insights into how neural ensembles encode
information and how human neural signals vary over different timescales. His research is also
developing a battery-powered neural signal processing platform to enable mobile brain-controlled
assistive technologies. Dr. Simeral has a decade of industry engineering experience including the design
of high-performance VLSI microprocessors and subsystems for massively parallel computer systems at
NCR, AT&T and Teradata. He is a Senior Fellow of the IEEE. He has published in leading journals
such as Nature and the Journal of Neural Engineering and was recently awarded, with the BrainGate
team, the international Israel Brain Technologies B.R.A.I.N. prize. He received the BS degree in
Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, a MS degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering
from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Wake Forest University
School of Medicine.