Neural Engineering: Emerging Technology in Neural Prosthetics and Neurosurgery
Brain Research Laboratory Department of Neurological Surgery Medical School University of Wisconsin Neural Engineering Laboratory Biomedical Engineering Department University of Michigan
Science has made great strides in the past few decades toward uncovering the basic principles underlying the brain’s ability to receive sensation and control movement. These discoveries, along with revolutionary advances in computing power and microelectronics technology, have led to an emerging view that neural prosthetics, or electronic interfaces with the brain for restoration or augmentation of physiological function, may one day be possible. While the creation of a “six million dollar man" may still be far into the future, neural prostheses are rapidly becoming real potential treatments for a broad range of patients with injury or disease of the nervous system. Chronic implantation of microelectrode recording and stimulation arrays has become a fairly routine procedure in the neuroscience field and has fueled research specifically in the area of neural prosthetics. However, the brain’s tissue reaction to these implanted devices limits their long-term success. The rigorous demands imposed upon a device for clinical applications underscore the need for improved neural implant technology. We are investigating the use of new neural interface technologies as potential brain-machine interfaces. This research includes the development of hybrid neural implants, micro-fluidic drug delivery to the CNS, biomaterials development, and advanced methods for evaluating and controlling the tissue response to implanted devices. Several neural prosthetic applications will be presented, including clinical work being done at the University of Wisconsin Neurosurgery Department.
Dr. Williams received undergraduate degrees from South Dakota State University in Nuclear Physics and Mechanical Engineering. He did his graduate work at Arizona State University, receiving a Masters and Ph.D. in Bioengineering. He is currently involved in a dual research position, jointly sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Neurosurgery Department and the University of Michigan Biomedical Engineering Department. His work at the two universities focuses on translating neural engineering research from the laboratory to the clinical environment.