During the opening ceremonies at this past summer’s World Cup, a young man paralyzed from the mid-chest down walked onto the field and kicked the first ball of the event. The demonstration—in front of 65,000 fans and an estimated one-billion TV viewers—was based on a battery-powered “Iron Man” exoskeleton with sensors built into the suit to detect muscle movements and a control system guided by brain waves. The volunteer participant, 29 year-old Juliano Pinto, wore an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap dotted with electrodes that picked up and magnified the faint electrical signals emanating through his skull.
The person behind the demonstration was Duke University neurologist Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., the author of this month’s Cerebrum feature, “Brain-to-Brain Interfaces: When Reality Meets Science Fiction.” Nicolelis is a pioneer in “brain-computer interfaces” (BCI)—defined as a direct connection between a human (or animal) brain with an external device. These connections range from non-invasive technologies, which recognize brain signals from outside the brain, to invasive technologies that involve surgery and implanting electrodes. While many of these technologies aim to restore function to disabled people, others aim to improve upon or augment existing functions.
This morning, the Lasker Foundation announced that two scientists, one a European Dana Alliance member and the other a Dana Alliance member, will share the 2014 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. The award recognizes the work of Alim Louis Benabid and Mahlon R. DeLong to develop deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus, surgically implanting a “brain pacemaker” that can reduce tremors and restore motor functions in people who have advanced Parkinson’s disease.
European Dana Alliance member Alim Louis Benabid of Joseph Fourier Univiersity and Dana Alliance member Mahlon R. DeLong of Emory University School of Medicine, courtesy of the Lasker Foundation
There’s an 8-minute explanatory video describing their work (and featuring fellow Alliance member Helen Mayberg) and a well-written description of their work.
Last week, the Society for Neuroscience announced the winners of the 2014 Brain Awareness Video Contest. Leigha Phillips, with Helen Tang and Lily Benedict, snagged first place for their video on vision and illusion (a topic we’ll be exploring with AAAS in a public event on October 28 in DC—stay tuned!). Second and third place winners addressed brain lesions and brainbows (brain mapping with colors), respectively.
Did you know the Dana Foundation has a YouTube channel? You can find all of our videos in one place, including entire Staying Sharp and AAAS events. Recent videos often find their way to the Dana homepage, as was the case with a AAAS event on spinal cord injuries.
Posted in Media
Chelsea Ott, International Neuroethics Society Communications Manager, gives us the rundown on what to expect at this year’s International Neuroethics Society annual meeting in November in DC. Registration is open now.
Don’t miss the Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) at the beautiful American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) building on November 13th and 14th—right before the Society for Neuroscience Meeting. There is a remarkable line-up of speakers and captivating topics, so be sure to check out the full agenda on our website, www.neuroethissociety.org. In addition to the panels, there are networking opportunities during breakfast, lunch, and two receptions, as well as a working group dinner on the 13th.
Remember to register before September 15th for a discounted rate! Space is limited!