Brain power: Bright ideas and smart tools for neuroengineering

Understanding and reverse-engineering the brain’s powerful circuitry have tantalized researchers for decades. Today, new tools and techniques provide unprecedented access to the nervous system, increasing our understanding of the brain and creating exciting new opportunities. Engineers investigate how the brain calculates, learns and controls the body, and tap into the nervous system’s capabilities to create intelligent systems and better assistive technologies. They also study how these technologies affect our society. In the future, neurotechnologies will become a seamless part of life

Helping People, Helping Society

Technologies can now be integrated with the human body to give people new sight with artificial retinas and improved hearing with cochlear implants. Those who are paralyzed may soon have new options for mobility withmind-controlled machines and regrown nerves. Numerical models are leading to better insight into how basic principles underlie complex behavior and injuries.

Exploring the Neuro-realm

From flexible electronic “tattoos” and advanced electrodes that tap into brain activity, to new techniques that use laser light to manipulate neural signaling, cutting-edge tools and technologies help us explore the brain. Imaging techniques have been critical in advancing our knowledge, but a number of engineering challenges remain. Technologies may even help the damaged brain rewire itself in conditions such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

 Beyond the Brain


Engineers are translating the brain’s abilities into innovative technologies, creating neural networks to manage smart power grids, chips that learn like the brain, and brain-like computers capable of massively parallel calculations. Students can explore what the brain can do through games and other prototypes.

Video: The complexities and promise of brain research

Engineers Ed Boyden, Bin He and Todd Coleman develop new tools to map, control, use and observe the brain’s dynamic circuits.


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