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Restoring Function by Merging Brain and Technology
John P. Donoghue, PhD, to discuss groundbreaking advancements at the 16th Annual Swartz Foundation Mind Brain Lecture

John Donoghue

STONY BROOK, NY, April 11, 2012 – Can a paralyzed person with a tiny electrode array implanted in the brain operate a robotic arm simply by thinking? Find out on Monday, April 16 at 4:30 pm in the Staller Center at Stony Brook University when theSwartz Foundation Mind Brain Lecture Series presents guest lecturer John P. Donoghue, PhD, the Henry Merritt Wriston Professor of Neuroscience and Engineering and Director of the Institute for Brain Science at Brown University, and a Senior Research Scientist in the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Donoghue will discuss BrainGate™, a groundbreaking human neural interface that is designed to restore useful functions for people with paralysis.

The lecture, “The Human Neural Interface: Restoring Function by Merging Brain and Technology,” is intended for a general audience and free and open to the public. The Mind Brain Lecture Series is sponsored by Stony Brook University and itsDepartment of Neurobiology and Behavior, and by the Swartz Foundation, which supports research at five centers for theoretical neuroscience.

Dr. Donoghue's laboratory builds on pioneering research in neurotechnology, which is emerging at a rapid pace with a goal to treat brain disorders or restore lost function. Brown University, which has established a team of internationally recognized scientists and engineers in this emerging field, seeks to develop brain-machine interfaces, like BrainGate™, that could restore independence to paralyzed humans and potentially augment human capabilities.

BrainGate™, a device currently undergoing pilot clinical trials as an investigational device, is a human neural interface system that provides a new connection from the brain to the outside world for people who have lost that connection from a stroke, spinal cord injury or disease. BrainGate™ consists of a tiny sensor implanted in the motor cortex that detects patterns of neural activity that reflect the person’s motor intentions. “These patterns can be converted into movement command signals so that a person who is paralyzed can directly control devices like a computer or a robotic arm,” said Dr. Donoghue.

In the human clinical trial, BrainGate™ has been tested in people who have longstanding, severe paralysis and have lost use of their arms. “In our initial studies these participants have been able to move a computer cursor to play a video game, and operate a robotic limb by imagining their own arm’s actions,” said Dr. Donoghue.

In the lecture, Dr. Donoghue will also explain how it is possible to detect and decode motor signals from the human brain and discuss the future implications of neurotechnology that can “read out” or “write into” brain circuitry. He will also share what his team is learning about human brain function by being able to observe its activity at a resolution never before achieved.

The lecture can also be viewed live via podcast. Please call (631) 632-7238 for a disability-related accommodation.

The Swartz Foundation was established by Jerry Swartz in 1994 to explore the application of physics, mathematics and engineering principles to neuroscience as a path to better understanding the mind/brain relationship. The Foundation set out to meet this requirement proactively, bringing the necessary intellectual resources to bear on understanding the brain/mind connection by attracting and preparing scientists from these areas to participate in the mainstream of neuroscience research. To achieve these goals, the Foundation supports a number of initiatives. One of these is the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience at the University of California at San Diego, for the application of new mathematical and modeling techniques to human brain activity/behavior studies. A new center for theoretical neurobiology has been established by the Foundation at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In addition, the Foundation continues to support the Sloan/Swartz Centers for Theoretical Neurobiology at five centers in major research universities and institutions around the country. Established in cooperation with the Sloan Foundation, these centers form a strong nucleus for the advancement of integrative neurobiology. In other research support activities, the Swartz Foundation sponsors a wide variety of individual projects using quantitative approaches to understand how the brain works.

Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,450 acres. In the 50+ years since its founding, the University has grown tremendously, now with nearly 25,000 students and 2,200 faculty members and is recognized as one of the nation’s important centers of learning and scholarship. It is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, and co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, joining an elite group of universities, including Berkeley, University of Chicago, Cornell, MIT, and Princeton that run federal research and development laboratories. SBU is a driving force of the Long Island economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs, and accounting for nearly 4% of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.


© Stony Brook University 2012