• Building Better Brains

    Neural Prosthetics and Beyond

    Building Better Brains

    Neural Prosthetics and Beyond

    Organizers: Richard Andersen (California Institute of Technology), P. Hunter Peckham (Case Western Reserve University), and Andrew Schwartz (University of Pittsburgh)Presented by the New York Academy of Sciences and The Aspen Brain Forum Foundation
    Reported by Heather Berlin | Posted January 27, 2011


    Neural prosthetics offer the promise of what was once unthinkable, the restoration of perceptive or movement ability in those who have lost it. But these devices offer much more than that. From September 23 through 25, 2010, researchers in all areas of the neural prosthetics field converged at the Building Better Brains: Neural Prosthetics and Beyond conference to examine ongoing work and the future of this exciting research avenue.

    Throughout the course of the conference, it was clear that neural prothetics have the potential not only to mimic "ordinary" motor function more closely than ever before, but also to restore neurobiological connections, to reanimate paralyzed limbs by stimulating muscles directly, to facilitate the reorganization of neural connections to "work around" damaged areas, to improve recovery from some neuropsychological disorders, and much more. Researchers emphasized that these possibilities are only realized through the intersection of groundbreaking fundamental neuroscience research and innovative technological development, all of which must be grounded in critical analysis of the clinical, social, and ethical impact of the work. As presenters indicated during the conference, this analysis has already begun—with research into the histological impact of recording devices, the differential impact of ECoG- versus EEG-based brain–computer interfaces, the accuracy of yes or no responses from individuals in a vegetative state, and into the ethical ramifications of enhancing neural function in previously unimpaired individuals, to name a few areas speakers discussed.

    The use and development of neural prosthetics will continue to raise difficult ethical and scientific questions, but, as the speakers in this conference demonstrated, these questions are often just as interesting, fruitful, and challenging as they are potentially confounding.

    2010 Aspen Brain Forum Prize in Neurotechnology

    The New York Academy of Sciences and the Aspen Brain Forum Foundation awarded two prizes of $7,500 each in unrestricted funds—one to senior scientist Eberhard Fetz, PhD (University of Washington) and one to a junior investigator, Jose Carmena, PhD (Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley)—for innovation and excellence in the field of neurotechnology. We are honored to recognize the outstanding achievements of the winners and finalists for the Aspen Brain Forum Prize in Neurotechnology who were announced during the First Annual Aspen Brain Forum held in Aspen, CO on September 23-25, 2010. To read more about the Aspen Brain Forum Prize and the 2010 finalists and awardees, please click here.

    Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.


    Presentations available from:

    Niels Birbaumer (University of Tübingen)
    Kristen A. Bowsher (U.S. Food & Drug Administration)
    Edward S. Boyden III (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
    Jacqueline C. Bresnahan (University of California, San Francisco)
    Joseph Fins (Weill Cornell Medical Center)
    Robert Fisher (Stanford University Medical Center)
    Philip R. Kennedy (Neural Signals, Inc.)
    Takashi Kozai (University of Michigan)
    Eric C. Leuthardt (Washington University School of Medicine)
    Helen S. Mayberg (Emory University School of Medicine)
    Daniel Moran (Washington University)
    P. Hunter Peckham (Case Western Reserve University)
    Marc H. Schieber (University of Rochester)
    Andrew B. Schwartz (University of Pittsburgh)
    Krishna V. Shenoy (Stanford University)
    Patrick Tresco (University of Utah)
    Jonathan Wolpaw (Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health)

    Presented by:

    • Aspen Brain Forum
    • New York Academy of Sciences


    • Life Technologies Foundation

    This event was funded in part by the Life Technologies™ Foundation.


    Medtronic Inc.

    Grant Support

    National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke

    The project described is supported by Award Number R13NS071862 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or the National Institutes of Health.

    For a list of all sponsors, see the sponsorship tab above.