What is sensorimotor neural engineering and how does the field benefit people with disabilities?

Date Updated

Sensorimotor neural engineers study the properties of neural systems (e.g., the brain, spinal cord, nerves, ganglia, and parts of the receptor and effector organs), including sensory systems and motor systems, to identify how engineering techniques can be applied to them. For example, in recent years the field has shown that it's possible to control devices by using signals from the brain. Such advancements can improve products and technology commonly used by people with disabilities (e.g., prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, augmentative communication devices).

The NSF Engineering Research Center for Neurotechnology is a global leader, bringing together researchers from all over the world to collaborate on the development of neural-inspired sensorimotor devices.

According to the NSNE website, "The Center’s mission is to develop innovative ways to connect a deep mathematical understanding of how biological systems acquire and process information with the design of effective devices that interact seamlessly with human beings. Our singular approach reverse-engineers the nervous system’s sensorimotor functions to develop engineering models that correct or compensate for neural deficits and augment neural capabilities. Using these mathematical and structural models, it is possible to design neural interfaces integrated with external control devices. These forward engineered devices, in turn, enable further discovery and mathematical modeling of neural computation. This information can then be used to develop hierarchical, non-linear, robust and adaptive algorithms that enable sensorimotor closed- loop control between humans and devices."

For more information about sensorimotor neural engineering, visit the CNT Outreach Blog and Research Projects websites.