Moving by Thinking: Progress Towards Cortical Neural Prosthetics


Joel Burdick

Department of Mechanical Engineering

California Institute of Technology





This talk summarizes our current efforts to develop a neural prosthetic that can drive a robotic or prosthetic arm in order to aid the handicapped.  Our system's control signals are derived from electrodes situated in the brain's Parietal Reach Region (PRR).  The PRR, whose function is briefly reviewed, encodes the brain's reach intentions.  Our probabilistic algorithms for decoding the brain's intended reach plan from PRR signals are summarized.  We then describe our experimental set-up for testing this concept on primate models.  We conclude with preliminary experimental results that demonstrate the possibility of using a neural prosthetic to control external devices by pure thought alone.  Some of the implications of our findings on the general issue of human-machine interfaces will be briefly considered.



Brief Biography:


 Joel Burdick received his undergraduate degrees in mechanical engineering and chemistry from Duke University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.  He has been with the department of Mechanical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology since May 1988, where he has been the recipient of the NSF Presidential Young Investigator award, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator award, and the Feynman fellowship.  Prof. Burdick has also received the ASCIT award for excellence in undergraduate teaching and the GSA award for excellence in graduate student education.  He has been a finalist for the best paper award for the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in 1993, 1999, and 2000.  He was the plenary speaker at the National Academy of Engineering's annual meeting in 1999.  Prof. Burdick was promoted to Associate professor with tenure in 1994, and Professor in 2000.  Since 2002, he has been a professor of BioEngineering.  Prof. Burdick's current research interests include robotic locomotion, sensor based robot motion planning, multi-fingered robotic hand manipulation, medical applications of robotics, applied nonlinear control theory, and neural prosthetics.