Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology - SINAPSE - has been set up to carry out research on neurotechnologies. Neurotechnology research at the institute ranges of micro to brain inspired circuits and machines and from cells to mind. I will describe the role of Electrical Engineers in this journey. The journey begins with working on neurons, essential single unit elements of human brain. We marry microfluidic devices to isolate neurons and their parts. There are many applications including how neurons connect themselves (synapse) and how they myelinate themselves (insulate). At a one higher level, we work with organs, nerve, spinal cord and brain. Here, we develop signal processing algorithms to analyze brain waves, for example to detect spinal cord injury or brain injury. The Electrical Engineer also builds microelectrodes and VLSI circuits for neural interface. Indeed, these days the interface can be both electrical and optical (optogentics). Further, we build "neuromorphic" circuits, sensors for touch and vision and circuits that mimic some useful properties of touch and vision. The last frontier is human brain and mind. Here our research pertains to building brain machine interface for neural prosthesis. Sophisticated signal analysis of neuronal "spikes" to "Electrocorticogram" is needed to decipher brain's intent, e.g. to move an arm (or control a prosthetic arm). Brain, arguably, is an electrical organ. Electrical Engineers can play a critical role in the upcoming grand challenges and global initiatives on human brain mapping (both USA and Europe will invest 100s of Millions of Dollars/Euros).
Nitish V. Thakor is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Neurology at Johns Hopkins and directs the Laboratory for Neuroengineering. He is also the Director the Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology (SINAPSE) at the National University of Singapore. Dr. Thakor's technical expertise is in the field of Neuroengineering, including neural diagnostic instrumentation, neural microsystems, neural signal processing, optical imaging of the nervous system, neural control of prosthesis and brain machine interface. He is currently the Editor in Chief (EIC) of Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing, and was the EIC of IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering from 2005-2011. Dr. Thakor is a recipient of a Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health and a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, IEEE, Founding Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and Fellow of International Federation of Medical and Biological Engineering. He is a recipient of the award of Technical Excellence in Neuroengineering from IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, Distinguished Alumnus Award from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India, and a Centennial Medal from the University of Wisconsin School of Engineering.