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Kozai Co-Chairs 2020 Gordon Research Conference to Foster Collaborations in Neural Engineering

The international event will bring together a multidisciplinary group of scientists and engineers to address challenges in brain-computer interfaces

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 20, 2020) … Neuroelectronic interfaces are the foundation of technology that connects the human mind to machine and helps to restore motor and sensory function to individuals with neurological diseases and disorders. This technology has been introduced as a successful treatment to the clinical environment, but issues with device stability and longevity remain.

The 2020 Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Neuroelectronic Interfaces will bring together a multidisciplinary group of scientists and engineers to address challenges in this area and collectively discuss how to drive innovation for next-generation devices. Takashi D-Y Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, will co-chair the event in Ventura, California, March 15-20, 2020.

“The challenges with this technology have been long-standing and complex to solve. It requires fundamentally understanding the problem from both biological and engineering perspectives,”  said Kozai, who helms the Bio-Integrating Optoelectric Neural Interface Cybernetics Lab in the Swanson School of Engineering. “Therefore, the goal of this GRC is to bring together fundamental neuroscientists, brain neurophysiologists, brain biocompatibility experts, material scientists, electrical engineers, clinical neural engineers, and clinical scientists to really understand what the fundamental problems and needs are for these neural interface technologies.

“The Gordon Research Conference format is conducive to this type of problem solving and innovation as it brings experts together for a week in an intimate setting,” he continued. “This conference has seeded many new collaborations and new directions in neural engineering.”

Pitt is no stranger to multidisciplinary research in this area, and this year’s GRC on Neuroelectronic Interfaces will feature presentations from five professors, each representing different departments at the University:

  • Robert Gaunt (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences) "Bidirectional Brain Computer Interfaces: Science and Function"

  • Douglas Weber (Bioengineering) "Recording and Stimulating Sensory Neurons in Dorsal Root Ganglia and Spinal Cord"

  • Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara (Neurological Surgery) "Longevity of Intracranial Recordings for BCI"

  • Franca Cambi (Neurology) "The Role of Myelin and Oligodendrocytes in Neural Function and Repair: Implications for Recording Devices"

  • Alberto Vazquez (Radiology) "Optogenetic Assessment of the Contribution of Neuronal Populations to Tissue Metabolic Load and Blood Flow Regulation: Vulnerable Neuronal Populations to Brain Injury"

In the past year, Swanson School faculty have received notable awards in this field of research: Kozai received $1,600,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop an innovative wireless neural device for long-term and precise stimulation; and Xinyan Tracy Cui, professor of bioengineering, developed a coating that improves the performance of microelectrode array technology and was awarded a $2,370,218 NIH grant.

Douglas Weber, associate professor of bioengineering, and his colleagues in the Rehab Neural Engineering Labs will collaborate on a $20,000,000 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant to develop non-invasive wearable technologies for able-bodied individuals.

“We’ve received tremendous support for this conference from the University of Pittsburgh, as well as our industry and foundation partners,” said Kozai. “The level and number of sponsoring partners highlight how important these collaborations are in achieving high-quality work and realizing the full potential of this pioneering and life-changing technology. The leadership at Pitt has cultivated an environment for excellent multidisciplinary research collaborations.”

This GRC will be held in conjunction with the "Neuroelectronic Interfaces (GRS): Creating a Roadmap to Translating Neural Technologies" Gordon Research Seminar (GRS).

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Contact: Leah Russell