Neuroengineering and Biomechanics
In the world of science there are always new and more advanced technologies introduced on an ongoing basis. A very popular topic of interest today is called neuro-engineering. Moving our brains beyond the connection it has to the body and extending its limitations by the use of computers is the idea behind neuro-engineering (Singer, 2007). A computerized brain chip that could make things happen with just thinking it. How could this ever be possible? The research that has been done thus far has proven that at a biological level, it can be done and is being done. As always, advances in such technologies have their pros and cons. We are no where near ready to begin experimenting with this type of technology but, extensive research has already proven that there are many possibilities. These possibilities could better the quality of life in humans.
How It Works
The more popular technology researched in the field of neuro-ngineering is Brain-Computer Interfacing. In one-way BCI, computers either accept commands from the brain or send signals to it (for example, to restore vision) but not both (Gibb, 2004). Two-way, BCI would allow brains and external devices to exchange information in both directions but have yet to be successfully implanted in animals or humans.
There are two major levels these interfaces apply to: peripheral, which are prosthetic limbs, and neural, where a specific computer chip is placed into contact with the brain. “A recent breakthrough in brain-interfacing described research in which monkeys controlled a robotic arm with thought alone” (Gibb, 2004).
What It Solves
Neural engineering is a discipline that uses engineering techniques to understand,repair, replace, enhance, or treat the diseases of neural systems. Neural engineers are uniquely qualified to solve design problems at the interface…
The term biomechanics means the study of the structure and function of biological systems using the methods of mechanics. Biomechanics studies the process of kinematics and develops artificial limbs and footwear specifically to aid the body in performance. The study of biomechanics also includes the stress testing on crash dummies in car accidents and any sport where stress is placed on the body in order to produce performance. The type of stress specifically is the joint stimulation and bone modeling stress.
The most common use of biomechanics is in the development of prosthetic limbs used for the handicapped. Most work on prosthetics is done in laboratories where scientists use calibrated machines to test stress and wear of artificial limbs. These days, prosthetics, are made of titanium and lightweight fiberglass to make a near perfect match with most people. The most common prosthesis is the replacement in a below the knee amputation. The American Society of Biomechanics (ASB) held a meeting at Clemson University of 1997 in order to develop a sports prosthesis that would stand up to every day flexing of the knee for performance in sports.
In order to develop this prosthesis they had to go through two main phases, the analysis of a jogger wearing a standard walking prosthesis and computer simulation of the flexing of the knee on this walking prosthesis. They had to measure rotation, weight bearing, moments, and the stress of the joints acting on this limb. After the mechanical actions were mapped out they had to use many mathematical equations to spring force and spring stiffness. All of this was accomplished and the conclusion was that by varying the placement and orientation of the spring, the moment arm values could be adjusted in an attempt to linearize the spring stiffness.Biomechanics is also used in the study of sports actions, such as the motion of throwing a baseball. This process involves three major steps. First, an…
Johns Hopkins University Neuroengineering Lab
1-Brain-Computer Interfaces & Neuroprostheses
A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) uses electrophysiological measures of brain activity to communicate with external devices, bypassing normal neuromuscular pathways. The majority of our work falls within the context of the DARPA Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 project, and centers on developing BCIs for neuroprosthetic control of advanced prosthetic limbs and restoration of motor control for amputees.
The group focuses on using electrophysiology to understand clinically relevant situations such as spinal cord injury, neurological consequences of cardiac arrest,and therapeutic hypothermia. In particular, we record spike, EEG and SEPs from rat somatosensory cortex and use measures such as quantitative EEG (QEEG) analysis to predict survival and functional outcome.
The group focuses on using microfabrication techniques to create novel high-throughput platforms that enable highly controlled environments for single cell studies. Our work is mainly focused on axonal regeneration, guidance, and spatial control of gene expression in living cell microarrays.
Speckle is a random field intensity pattern produced by the mutual interference of partially coherent beams that are subject to minute temporal or spatial fluctuations. If the field of particles is nonstatic, photographing the pattern results in an image that is blurred over the exposure time of the recording device. The velocity information in the blur can be extracted and mapped to contrast using statistical arguments.
5-VLSI & Instrumentation
Simultaneous detection and sensing of neurochemicals and electrophysiological field potentials is potentially useful in studying the interaction between chemical synaptic activity and electrical neuronal activity. At insulating gaps between two neurons (the synapse), the electrical activity in the pre-synaptic neuron causes the release of neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft. Post-synaptic neurons sense these neurotransmitters, and based on the specific chemical message, initiate or suppress the transmission of electrical activity through them. To be able to monitor these related signals in vivo is even more useful as it allows continuous sensing from awake and behaving animals. This could provide important information regarding neurologicalconditions where there is an imbalance between the chemical and electrical activity like epilepsy.
NETI: the NeuroEngineering Training Initiative at JHU
Neuroengineering is defined as the interdisciplinary field of engineering and computational approaches, as applied to problems in basic and clinical nuroscience. The NeuroEngineering Training Initiative at Johns Hopkins seeks to balance engineering, mathematics, and computer science with molecular, cellular, and systems neurosciences. The program leverages the educational and research resources of both the engineering and medical schools.
Life sciences training consists of courses taught either through the medical school or through the basic biomedical science curriculum.
Engineering training consists of rigorous coursework in mathematics, computation,and other engineering subjects appropriate for the particular student’s focus.
NETI trainees also forge collaborations between faculty members, participate in weekly seminars, and present their research at various conferences.
Through schoolwork, seminars, social events, conferences, and collaborative interactions, our students provide the nexus between basic science, clinical, and engineering research.
The Neuroengineering Training Initiative is funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, (NIH Grant T32EB003383, Neuroengineering Training Grant).
NETI: the NeuroEngineering Training Initiative at JHU
University of Pennsylvania
Duke University Center for Neuroengineering
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For useful information as a graduate student in Baltimore, see the website for the Biomedical Engineering PhD Council: