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National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies (NCAN)

Jonathan R. Wolpaw

Center Overview

This BTRC creates software, hardware, and protocols that support complex real-time interactions with the central nervous system (CNS). It is founded on two major advances, one scientific and one technological. The scientific advance is the recognition that activity-dependent plasticity occurs continually throughout the CNS and throughout life; this plasticity is driven and shaped by the ongoing interactions between the CNS and the world. The technological advance is the development and availability of hardware and software that can support complex real-time adaptive interactions with the CNS; this technology enables development of powerful new research tools and therapeutic methods that can induce and guide CNS plasticity to restore useful function to people disabled by injury or disease. Working closely with outstanding collaborators, BTRC staff are pursuing three major approaches to creating scientifically significant and clinically beneficial interactions with the CNS: (1) operant conditioning of simple spinal cord reflexes to improve rehabilitation of important motor skills such as locomotion; (2) brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) using scalp-recorded electroencephalographic (EEG) activity that restore communication to people with severe disabilities or enhance rehabilitation for stroke and other neurological disorders; and (3) use of electrocorticographic (ECoG) activity from the cortical surface of the brain to map and interact with distributed cortical functions. BTRC technologies developed in these three areas are already in clinical use in a number of hospitals and clinics. The BTRC provides its general-purpose software platform, BCI2000, to research groups throughout the world, hosts and trains many students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting scientists, organizes workshops related to adaptive neurotechnologies, maintains an active website, produces many scientific and technological review articles and chapters, provides training materials for its new technologies, and has produced several important textbooks. In summary, this BTRC is engaging the unprecedented scientific and clinical opportunities introduced by adaptive interactions with the nervous system. It is developing and validating a robust set of adaptive neurotechnologies, providing training in their use, and disseminating them to the scientific and clinical communities.