Abstract: This talk will focus on two research efforts that are aimed at developing new robotic technology and algorithms to assist in the recovery of function by patients suffering from neural deficits. The first part of the talk will focus on novel multi-electrode systems that can autonomously position neural recording electrodes inside cortical tissue so as to isolate and then maintain optimal extracellular signal recording quality. Autonomous microdrives such these can be used to improve the quality and efficiency of acute recordings that are needed for basic research in neurophysiology. They also offer the potential to increase the longevity and quality of chronic recordings that serve as the front end of emerging neuroprosthetic systems that aid the handicapped. The autonomous positioning algorithms and novel miniature robot microdrives will be described. We present data from the use of this technology in monkeys and rats. This part of the talk will conclude with a snapshot of our current efforts to miniature this technology using MEMS fabrication methods.
The second part of the talk will focus on the use of robotic devices and drug therapy to recover locomotion after spinal cord injury (SCI). We have developed specialized robotic devices to aid in the step and stand training of spinalized mice models. Coupled with administration of quipazine (a serotonin agonist), we show that the use of these training devices can significantly improve the function of the intact nervous system. The talk will conclude with our current work to develop and use novel flexible epidural spinal cord stimulating arrays to assist in locomotion recovery.