Wadsworth scientists and engineers are building a unique technological infrastructure that supports real-time interactions with the central nervous system (CNS). They are using it to produce important new scientific insights and novel clinical methods, and they are beginning to disseminate these achievements to others. For example, they have shown in people with spinal cord injuries that a protocol that repeatedly elicits a hyperactive reflex and consistently rewards the smaller responses can induce concurrent CNS adaptation (i.e., plasticity) that gradually weakens the hyperactive reflex pathway and thereby helps to restore a skill such as locomotion. And, in people who have lost all muscle control, a protocol that presents a cursor movement task and appropriately translates a specific feature of electroencephalographic (EEG) activity into cursor movements can guide concurrent CNS adaptation that enables the individuals to control the EEG feature and use it to communicate. New understanding of CNS plasticity generates these protocols and new technology implements them.
Working closely with a set of outstanding collaborators, The Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies is continuing and expanding these efforts, strengthening their focus on clinical translation, and accelerating the dissemination of the new technologies. The Center has five aims:
Aim 1 is to develop and validate new operant conditioning protocols that can modify specific spinal and corticospinal CNS pathways to induce and guide beneficial (i.e., rehabilitative) plasticity in the CNS to improve functional recovery in people with spinal cord injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, or other trauma or disease. These protocols will also be incorporated into a compact and robust unit to enable widespread clinical use of this new therapeutic method to enhance recovery in people with neuromuscular disabilities.
Aim 2 is to develop and validate electroencephalography(EEG)-based brain-computer interface (BCI) systems that can improve important CNS functions, such as motor control in people with severe neuromuscular disabilities (e.g., stroke) and emotion regulation in people with addiction disorders (thereby reducing craving and substance abuse). This work should markedly increase the clinical usefulness and importance of BCI technology.
Aim 3 is to develop and validate an integrated sequence of methods that use electrocorticographic (ECoG) signals from the cortical surface to localize and characterize brain processes with temporal and spatial resolution beyond that now possible. This work is developing novel algorithms for modeling, co-registration, representation, and reduction of ECoG signals; integrating them into a sequential analysis process that goes from raw data to formal characterization of complex cortical functions; and incorporating this process into real-time software for detecting, mapping, and interacting with the brain processes underlying specific functions and dysfunctions.
Aim 4 is to create a novel interdisciplinary training curriculum that provides a theoretical foundation in adaptive neurotechnologies and practical experience in applying them to important scientific and clinical applications. This curriculum is being incorporated into training courses and workshops.
Aim 5 is to develop and support dissemination channels for adaptive neurotechnologies, including: the highly interactive Center website; review articles in scientific, engineering, and clinical journals; presentations and workshops at scientific and clinical meetings; and promotion of uniform hardware and software standards for adaptive neurotechnologies.
In summary, the mission of the Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies is to produce and validate important new neurotechnologies, and to provide training and dissemination that enable scientists, engineers, and clinicians to join in developing and using them. It seeks to increase understanding of CNS function and dysfunction, and to realize effective new therapies for a wide range of devastating neurological disorders.