Last year, some summer programs at the Center for Neurotechnology were cancelled because of health concerns surrounding COVID-19; however, the Center’s education staff remained undaunted. They reimagined and reshaped curricula so that almost all CNT summer programs could be offered this year by providing an online, virtual learning experience for participants. The move to remote learning, forced by the pandemic, also had an unexpected benefit. It allowed the CNT to expand its education programs to a wider audience.
Center for Neurotechnology Co-Director Rajesh Rao recently received a two-year grant through the Weill Neurohub, which will provide him and his collaborators with funding to develop a new type of brain-computer interface capable of restoring injured neural circuits in the brain. The interface, called a “brain co-processor,” couples artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, such as artificial neural networks, with their biological counterparts in the brain, allowing the co-processor and brain to learn alongside each other. This innovative approach offers a new way to heal the brain, restore function and even augment the brain’s ability to process information.
At the age of 27, Jessie Owen was in a devastating car accident that left her with a severe spinal cord injury. She lost much of the function in her hands, arms and legs, and she was diagnosed with central spinal cord syndrome. Her brain’s ability to send and receive signals to and from the parts of her body below her neck was severely impaired. She had to take a leave of absence from her job as a teacher, and she has since been dependent on a wheelchair and caregivers for day-to-day living.
Growing up, Abhivyakti (Abhi) Gautam was most excited on Tuesday, because on that day, she could spend a whole additional hour during school playing basketball or tennis. A national level tennis player, Gautam was born in India to the son and daughter, respectively, of two school principals who had both laid the foundation of India’s education system after the country won its independence in 1947.
According to the World Health Organization, almost a billion people around the world are affected by neurological disorders such as stroke, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s nearly one in six of us. For most of human history, many of these conditions have been virtually untreatable, and even today, modern medicine can only go so far. But neural engineers such as CNT member Azadeh Yazdan, are pushing the envelope, seeking to widen our understanding of the brain, how it works, and what can be done to heal and restore this most vital organ when it doesn’t.