Theme 6

Theme 6: Neural and Rehabilitation Engineering


‘Omics’ at the Brain-Electrode Interface: the Intersection of Transcriptomics, Proteomics, and Invasive Neurotechnology

Erin Purcell, Michigan State University, USA
Ulrich Hofmann, University of Freiburg, Germany
Kevin Joseph, University of Freiburg, Germany
Jeffrey Capadona, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Quentin Whitsitt, Michigan State University, USA

Implanted electrode arrays enable “write-in” and “read-out” of electrical signals to and from brain tissue. These brain signals can be used to communicate with and control external technology. Recent advances in brain-machine interfaces in the clinic, as well as the possible future commercialization of implanted electrodes for non-therapeutic use, underscore the need to optimize chronic device performance and safety. In particular, the biological response to implants in the brain interferes with device-tissue communication and typically displays evidence of insertional trauma, blood vessel rupture, gliosis, neuronal damage and loss. In recent years, the ‘omics’ revolution has enabled new discoveries which have revealed the complex spectrum of cellular identities and reactive states in brain tissue, advancing our understanding of the underlying mechanisms driving pathology. Recently, researchers have combined these two rapidly evolving research areas, using transcriptomics and proteomics to assess the brain’s response to implanted neurotechnology. The high-throughput, “hypothesis-free” nature of these characterizations has produced rich data sets revealing several surprises, which our speakers will detail in this mini-symposium.


Next Generation Electrode Technologies for Improving Communication with the Body

Rylie Green, Imperial College London, UK
James Weiland, University of Michigan, USA
Diego Ghezzi, EPFL, Switzerland
Yael Haenin, University of Tel Aviv, Israel
Christopher Proctor, University of Cambridge, UK
Florian Fallegger, EPFL, Switzerland

The field of bioelectronics in medicine and specifically electrode technologies is both mired in history and considered one of the most exciting areas of advancement for the future of implantable devices. Devices such as the cardiac pacemaker and the cochlear implant were pioneered at a time when regulation was less stringent and driven by the need for a clinical solution. However, with the necessary establishment of regulatory guidelines and the associated resources required to meet these rigorous safety and efficacy tests, there has been a widening gap between the ‘state of the art’ and technologies that are being applied in the clinic. Concurrently, there has been increasing research and development of electronics driven by the miniaturization of electronic chips. Bioelectronic devices are now being developed to treat a wide variety of sensory, muscular and autonomic disorders.

Of particular interest is the area of high-resolution devices, such as the retinal implant, where high channel counts may improve visual acuity. A substantial amount of research funds and resources have been used to demonstrate that there are a range of new materials that may improve patient benefits of implantable bionic devices. Material technologies such as metal oxides, conductive polymers, hydrogels, carbon nanotubes and graphene, biopolymers such as proteins and even stem cells have been proposed for addressing a range of limitations experienced with current devices. With this growth in the bioelectronics industry and increasing demand for devices with higher electrode counts and fine control of neuromodulation, there is a need to not only explore, but translate technologies that can substantially improve device functionality and patient benefit. This symposium will explore the cutting edge of electrode technologies that are designed to interface with the soft and motile tissues of the body, improving charge transfer and enabling higher electrode counts to be successfully implanted. The speakers in this session will demonstrate not only the materials design and approach for addressing the therapeutic challenge, but also the path to translation in a clinical setting.


Advances and Challenges in Closed-Loop Bio-realistic Hand Prosthesis

Ning Lan, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China
Jie Zhang, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China
Chuanxin Niu, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China
He Cui, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Peng Fang, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

Recently, non-invasive somatotopic sensory feedback techniques have demonstrated their effectiveness in providing tactile information of hand prosthesis to users. At the same time, a new approach to controlling prosthetic hand using a neuromorphic-based reflex model has shown promising ability to control stiffness of the prosthesis. In this mini-symposium, we have assembled a group of excellent speakers to present their most recent research related to the development of closed-loop bio-realistic hand prosthesis. The bio-realistic hand prosthesis differs from conventional bionic hand in that the bio-realistic hand prosthesis is controlled by a neuromorphic controller that contains a neuromuscular reflex model with human-like compliance. Neuromorphic engineering of hardware computing is the key technology that allows high speed computation of complex models to generate real-time force output. The bio-realistic hand prosthesis can also incorporate a sensory feedback of various kinds to close the loop with a human. In particular here, we will present the results of efficacy of a non-invasive somatotopic sensory feedback technique based on transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) that evokes digit specific sensory effects. Along with these advances, our speakers will also introduce recent advances in motor intention detection. These include generative models of brain-machine interface (BMI) to predict the motor intentions or commands from MI neuronal recordings; as well as techniques to recognize motor commands from high-density EMG recordings from residual limb muscles. These techniques may allow accurate identification or prediction of motor commands for real-time control of biorealistic hand prosthesis. However, enormous challenges lie ahead for neural and rehabilitation engineering to integrate these techniques into a practical device for users. This mini symposium will discuss some of these challenges and promote solutions in future research and development.


Therapeutic Peripheral Sensory Stimulation

James Patton, University of Illinois at Chicago and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, USA
Hangue Park, Texas A &M, USA
Dario Farina, Imperial College London, UK
Silvestro Micera, EPFL, Switzerland
Jayme Knutson, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Dustin Tyler, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Scott Delp, Stanford University, USA
Nitish Thakor, Johns Hopkins University, USA

There are bright prospects for the concept of stimulating sensory nerves not for a neuro- prosthesis, but instead to improve therapy processes. For someone who is recovering from a neural injury such as a stroke, there are often few options that substantially foster the regaining of functional ability. A few researchers have recently explored this topic, and hence the time is right for a workshop where others can be informed of new frontiers, critical challenges, and allow a roadmap for future research questions and device developments.

The adaptive brain reorganization that occurs during neurorehabilitation involves both motor and sensory resources, yet sensory is less studied despite more than half of individuals recovering from stroke have compromised proprioception. Approaches using audio, visual, and/or tactile (haptic) feedback have shown limited results due to inaccuracy, drift, and cognitive burden. One intriguing strategy is to create completely new signalling pathways by accessing peripheral nerves using stimulation. This workshop will outline wholly novel methods of neural stimulation that code information. Alter behaviour, and foster recovery.

More information


The Fast-Changing Landscape of Electroencephalography

Walter Besio, University of Rhode Island, USA
Damien Coyle, Ulster University, Ireland
Sridhar Sunderam, University of Kentucky, USA
Alan J. Macy, BioPac, USA
Nicola Soldati, Brain Products, Germany
Christoph Guger, g.tec medical engineering GmbH, Austria

This workshop is designed to give both novice and experienced electroencephalography (EEG) users a synopsis of the latest innovations in EEG and related areas. EEG is the recording of brain electrical activity from the scalp. The EEG measures the difference in potentials between electrodes generated by ionic currents flowing within neurons of the brain. For many years EEG has had limited use due to poor signal quality, low spatial resolution, and non-portability. Even with these limitations, EEG is still a standard practice in clinical settings such as diagnosis of epilepsy and for research such as brain computer interfacing. In recent years electrodes, signal acquisition hardware, and signal processing software have undergone major improvements allowing new and improved applications of EEG. Further, artificial intelligence is expected to expand the use of unseen features of the EEG. We will have talks about EEG sensor development, use, signal processing, and applications. We will have hands on demonstrations of the technologies. These talks will illustrate some of the latest technologies for acquiring EEG and bi-directional brain communication, injecting signals to alter the brain state. The target audience of the workshop is the whole community of the IEEE EMBS Society interested in brain research. We will have six presentations providing a mix of the latest research in the field of EEG and products. We will also query the audience on what could help them in their research. We will have six presentations providing a mix of the latest research in the field of EEG and products.


  • 08:30 – 8:40Walt Besio, Introduction
  • 08:40 – 9:30Damien Coyle, PhD, University of Ulster, IE: Artificial intelligence for wearable EEG
  • 09:30 – 10:15Sridhar Sunderam, PhD, U. of Kentucky, USA: Me and my EEG: Reflections on neurotechnology in our personal space
  • 10:15 – 10:45Walt Besio, PhD, U. Rhode Island, USA: Bi-Directional Brain Communication using Concentric Electrodes
  • 10:45 – 11:15Alan J. Macy, MS, BioPac, USA: EEG Measures and Processing in Multivariate Recording
  • 11:15 – 11:45Nicola Soldati, PhD, Brain Products, DE: Flexible EEG solutions for every research question
  • 11:45 – 12:15Christoph Guger, PhD, g.tec, AT: Current and future applications of BCIs
  • 12:15 – 12:30Walt Besio, Audience participation describing what their EEG needs are
Special Session

Visual Prosthetics: State-of-the-Art and Future Directions

Avi Caspi, Jerusalem College of Technology
Eduardo Fernandez Jover, University Miguel Hernandez
Daniel Palanker, Stanford University
Shelley Fried, Harvard Medical School
Breanne Christie, Johns Hopkins University, USA
John Pezaris, Massachusetts General Hospital
James Weiland, University of Michigan

It is well known that electrical stimulation of the visual pathway creates the percept phosphenes, light perception without light actually entering the eyes. Currently, there are several chronically implanted retinal and cortical prostheses that are used to conduct clinical and pre-clinical research. The results of those experiments intent for the regulatory approvals of the devices and to reveal the engineering barriers for the bionic eye that will restore useful sight.

In the proposed special session, we will discuss and demonstrate current results and the need for future research regarding retinal and cortical prostheses implant and system design. The session will include talks and panel discussions. The aim of the session is to allow an open face-to-face interaction between researchers in various scientific and engineering disciplines.

Special Session

Advances and Perspectives in Robot Tutoring During the Motor Rehabilitation Process

Edwin Johnatan Avila-Mireles, Jožef Stefan Institut, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Georg Rauter, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Jan Babič, Jožef Stefan Institut, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Vesna D. Novak, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, USA
Imre Cikajlo, University Rehabilitation Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Arzu Guneysu Ozgur, KTH, Division of Robotics, Perception and Learning, Sweden
Laura Marchal-Crespo, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands Domenico Formica, Newcastle University (UK) & Universita Campus Bio- Medico di Roma (Italy)
Emilio Trigilli, Scuola Superiore di Sant’Anna, BioRobotics Institute, Italy

Motor Rehabilitation is the process that involves physical training of patients to relearn or improve motor functions that have been lost due to injury of the associated brain region that controls the respective function. In the last decades, robots have been increasingly applied to take over the physically exhausting work of therapists for highly repetitive task training required for motor relearning. However, physically supporting patients in a way so that a task is successfully repeated and completed is not the only essence of motor relearning. The patients have to remain motivated and challenged at the same time within the limits of their abilities so that their brain remains actively involved to thrive motor relearning. While humans are able to provide personalized support/challenge in every individual patient, robots struggle in understanding the patient’s needs and capabilities. Therefore, robotic tutoring in motor rehabilitation (i.e. motor rehabilitation of patients in a (semi-)automatic, individualized way similar to human tutoring but by the means of robots) remains a hot topic with large potential for scaling of robotic therapy to enable individualized therapy while treating more patients at higher intensity at the same time. This approach aims to tackle the upcoming problems of an increasingly large population of patients due to demographic aging combined with neurological issues that increase with age. This session addresses the recent advances in the field of robotic tutoring in motor rehabilitation through an interdisciplinary approach. Our speakers will report their experiences on the fields of robotics, motor (re-)learning, control, and machine learning and will allow the audience to understand what is really needed to advance the field of robotic motor rehabilitation towards intelligent, effective approaches for motor rehabilitation.