The interdisciplinary scientific journal iScience recently announced important advances in the field of bioelectronics and neural engineering, particularly in the development of neuroprosthesis, for the treatment of brain-damage related disabilities. The paper, published in September 2019, highlighted the remarkable results met by the Department of Neuroscience and Brain Technologies of the Italian Institute of Technology.
The achievements of the team led by Michela Chiappalone built on the work on BMI (Brain Machine Interfaces) carried out by BRAINBOW, a FET Open (Future and Emerging Technologies) project, funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme. The project ran from February 2012 to May 2015.
A major challenge in modern neuroscience is the development of bioelectronics systems that can re-connect two neuronal areas of the brain unable to communicate because of a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. As the paper shows, in the two recent experiments conducted by Chiappalone's multidisciplinary team, a hardware prosthesis has been applied to an in vitro model of brain lesion, to collect the inputs coming from neural recordings, process them and generate outputs, to allow bidirectional communication.
Both experiments successfully met the prefixed goals, becoming the first models to implement a truly bidirectional interaction in real time, providing a new artificial link between two previously connected areas of the brain.
The noteworthy scenario met by the team was among the declared objectives of the project Brainbow, namely the development of hybrid systems where biological networks interact with artificial ones. This is a clear example that investing in future and emerging technologies can pay off in time and have an important societal and medical impact.
For more information about Brainbow take a look at these two videos where Michela Chiappalone and Stefano Buccelli tell their experience in the project and their vision about the challenges they are working on.