University of Houston Professor Badri Roysam and a network of dot-connecting researchers are helping the Pentagon develop reliable, mind-controlled devices for amputees. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but the project has very real world goals: to discover why the devices ultimately fail and investigate new strategies to make the devices last longer.
"We want to really get to the biology, technology and the fundamental engineering issues that are at stake, and develop new knowledge," he said.
Roysam also is chair of the department of electrical and computer engineering. His team is part of a national research assembly line of researchers who are investigating why the devices fail. Others on the network include researchers from the University of Michigan, MPI Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Seattle Children's Research Institute. Each team builds on the work of the others. The UH role is to analyze 3D, brain tissue images using a powerful software platform called FARSIGHT, developed in his lab with support from the National Institutes of Health. His team will translate these images into data that quantifies the response of each individual brain cell and cell type to the implant.
"For example, if we have microglia—they look like little spiders—we delineate them accurately and then we compute quantitative measurements, almost 300 quantitative measurements per cell—and there are thousands of these cells. Then we have to make sense of those measurements," he said.
When each research team has completed its work, recommendations for design changes may come.
The research is supported by a $5.4 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Badri Roysam is part of what's happening at the University of Houston. I'm Marisa Ramirez.
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