The Academy Hosts First Annual Aspen Brain Forum, Awards Two Prizes for Innovation and Excellence in Neurotechnology

An Academy conference will explore technologies for engineering better brains, such as neural prosthetics to treat motor, sensory, and cognitive deficits.

The Academy and the Aspen Brain Forum Foundation will present a landmark conference this month entitled “Building Better Brains: Neural Prosthetics and Beyond.” The multidisciplinary meeting will take place at the Given Institute in Aspen, Colo., Sept. 23-25, 2010. The meeting will unite experts in neurobiology and bioengineeringwho share the goal of developing neural prosthetics intended to treat patients suffering from motor, sensory, and cognitive deficits.

The winners of the Aspen Brain Forum Prize in Neurotechnology will be announced at the conference on September 25th. Two prizes of $7,500 in unrestricted funds will be awarded for innovation and excellence in the field of neurotechnology. One young investigator at the postdoctoral/assistant professor level and one senior scientist will be awarded for work that has broad application and impact in translating basic research into effective therapeutics within the area of neural prosthetics.

Neural prosthetic devices to replace motor, sensory, or cognitive functions lost by disease or injury hold great therapeutic promise, but have not been widely used to treat humans. This conference will showcase the most cutting-edge research on using neural prosthetic devices as effective therapeutics and a discussion of ways to overcome their current limitations. The meeting’s organizing committee includes: Richard Andersen, PhD, California Institute of Technology; P. Hunter Peckham, PhD, Case Western Reserve University; and Andrew Schwartz, PhD, University of Pittsburgh. The keynote lecture will be given by Apostolos Georgopoulos, MD, PhD, University of Minnesota.

Plenary sessions and panel discussions during the three-day event will address basic research with strong potential for translation; new developments in bioengineering and materials; how to engineer an effective and practical neural interface; pros and cons of current devices and materials; clinical applications and case studies; unique regulatory and ethical issues posed by neurotechnology; and the potential application of neural prosthetics to treat depression, epilepsy, and other diseases.

The interaction between neuroscience and bioengineering to construct “replacement parts” for the brain is one of the most exciting and potentially fruitful areas of translational neuroscience. With new advances in understanding the biology of neurodegenerative diseases and the link between brain and behavior, the ability to develop therapeutics to replace lost motor, sensory, and cognitive function is now on the horizon. Patients with diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, paralysis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), depression, epilepsy, and other maladies stand to benefit from these developments.

This First Annual Aspen Brain Forum will bring together thought leaders working at the interface of these areas to discuss developing novel neural therapeutic devices as well as to improve the neural prosthetics currently in use for human disease. The goals of the three-day event are to establish the state-of-the-science in neurobiology and bioengineering of neural prosthetics, and to explore how these findings can be translated into successful treatments that will improve the quality of life for patients and society at large.

For more information and to register, visit: www.nyas.org/BetterBrains. Media must register by contacting Adrienne Burke, aburke@nyas.org or 212.298.8655.

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide since 1817. With 24,000 members in 140 countries, NYAS is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. NYAS' core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large.