Milestones in Brain Computer Interface Research at SDSU

Restoring some form of basic motor activity such as the use of feet and hands after stroke, spinal cord injury, or degenerative neural diseases remains to be a monumental challenge that can be addressed only through the combined efforts of multi-disciplinary researchers varying from neurophysiologists to hardware engineers. CSNE (Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering), NSF-funded collaborative effort between faculty of SDSU, UW, and MIT is making some key progresses towards creating new technologies that will help people who are paralyzed or suffer from sensorimotor disabilities. A key component of these technologies is what is called BCI (brain computer interface), hardware that directly interfaces between the brain and the outside world enabling recording and transmission of brain electrical signals.  Kassegne’s Lab at SDSU is developing a special kind of electrode to be used in this brain-computer interface. This “glassy carbon” electrode will both electrically stimulate (send information) and record (receive information) from neurons in the brain. Traditional electrode implants are metal-based, usually made of gold or platinum. Kassegne’s glassy carbon electrodes are promising to be a significant step forward from metals not only in regards to the ability of these new electrodes to record and transmit clearer, more robust electrical signals, but also in terms of superior biocompatibility (less scar tissue in the brain) and corrosion resistance over an extended period of time. A new journal publication released in January of this year in Nature Science Reports, “Highly Stable Glassy Carbon Interfaces for Long-Term Neural Stimulation and Low-Noise Recording of Brain Activity” represents the latest step forward in this research. This milestone takes the technology closer to human trials for therapeutic applications.