By Jennifer Langston
In the next decade, people who have suffered a spinal cord injury or stroke could have their mobility improved or even restored through a radically new technology: implantable devices that can send signals between regions of the brain or nervous system that have been disconnected due to injury.
That’s the mission driving the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, a University of Washington-led effort that includes researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, San Diego State University and other partners.
To support development of this much-needed technology, the National Science Foundation recently renewed the center’s funding. It has awarded $16 million over the next four years to support research on implantable devices that promote brain plasticity and reanimate paralyzed limbs.
“There’s a huge unmet need, especially with an aging population of baby boomers, for developing the next generation of medical devices for helping people with progressive or traumatic neurological conditions such as stroke and spinal cord injury,” said CSNE director and UW professor of computer science and engineering Rajesh Rao.