CMU team:

A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University led by Indian American associate professor Pulkit Grover (above) has received a DARPA grant to design a noninvasive neural interface that can be used as a wearable device. (cmu.edu photo)

A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University led by Indian American associate professor Pulkit Grover has received a $19.48 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to design a noninvasive neural interface that can be used as a wearable device.

This neural interface will be capable of recording and stimulating the brain's dynamic activity with high temporal and spatial resolution, the university said in a news release.

This interface will enable unprecedented access to neural circuits to study brain function and dysfunction, as well as begin designing precise therapeutic interventions to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as epilepsy, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, the release said.

It also can be used as a noninvasive platform for realizing next generation brain-machine interfaces.

DARPA's "next-generation-nonsurgical-neurotechnology" program aims to develop high-performance, bi-directional brain-machine interfaces. The team's interface is being developed by harnessing concepts in physics, biology, and engineering through electricity, ultrasound and light.

The team of researchers is led by Grover, associate professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, along with assistant professor of ECE Maysam Chamanzar and assistant professor of biomedical engineering Jana Kainerstorfer.

"The perspective that our team adopted, which I think is quite novel, is that instead of fighting the physics that limit our ability to affect the brain noninvasively," Grover said in the university report, “we are harnessing the complexities of the physics and biology associated with this problem in order to improve the spatial and temporal resolution of measuring and stimulating the brain."

Half of the project, led by Chamanzar, is aimed at sensing the brain function, noninvasively, the report added.

Another half of the project, led by Grover, is aimed at stimulating the brain.

By using Grover's current waveforms and electrode patch-designs, the team aims to provide targeted, localized treatments, without the need for surgical interventions. To accomplish this, the team will rely on the expertise of Chamanzar in designing neural interfaces, for stimulation and recording tailored for neural stimulation based on dynamics of neural activity, the university report continued.

"We will design an array of electrical stimulators in the form of a flexible, wearable device that can be placed over scalp, in order to generate a pattern of electrical signals in the brain tissue by counterbalancing the dispersive effects of brain tissue, scalp and skull," Chamanzar told the university.

"Our techniques will make precise neurostimulation treatments accessible to a much larger section of population, and readily tested and applied to a broader set of disorders," Grover said.

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