The Keck School of Medicine of USC is teaming up with two other universities — the University of California, Irvine and the California Institute of Technology — to develop a fully implantable brain-machine interface device that allows people with paraplegia to regain greater mobility.
The initiative is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Cyber-Physical Systems Frontier five-year grant of $8 million.
The focal point of the research is to convert the existing technology into a version that is entirely implantable. The institutions will work together to create a device that will transmit signals to a robotic exoskeleton that then sends the pulses to the brain.
The project will require the skills of all three institutions to restore the sensation and walking ability of those with spinal cord injuries. Clinical studies will then be conducted on volunteers who have previously sustained spinal cord injuries.
“The restoration of walking is a very significant goal for patients after spinal cord injury,” said Charles Liu, the principal investigator at the Keck School of Medicine and director of the USC Neurorestoration Center told USC News. “New solutions are possible with the recent advances in neuroprosthetics and regenerative medicine.”
Liu’s co-principal investigators on the project are Richard Andersen, the James G. Boswell professor of neuroscience at Caltech; Zoran Nenadic, professor of biomedical engineering at UCI; and An Hang Do, assistant clinical professor of neurology at UCI.
The long-standing collaboration between Liu and his colleagues at Caltech and UCI will be maintained through the USC Neurorestoration Center.
According to Nenadic, this study also aims to expand knowledge on the human brain’s control of walking and sensation that would give insight into how different diseases may affect mobility-related physical functions.
The Cyber-Physical Systems Frontier is one of the largest programs within the organization to provide financial support for scientific initiatives that integrate computation, networking and physical processes.