BROWN NEUROMOTION LABORATORY
Updated March, 2019 Openings in lab

Our mission

To design, develop, and deploy neurotechnology to better understand the nervous system and improve human lives.
Providence, RI June 2016

Lab in the news

  • Nicole Provenza is named first author in Frontiers in Neuroscience - congratulations! (2019)
  • Congrats to Chris and Radu for their Spotlight in Trends in Neuroscience! (2018)
  • Congratulations Dr. Xiaoxiao Hou - first Ph.D. from the lab!
  • Congratulations to Caleb on his acceptance to Columbia University Ph.D. program - good luck!
  • Congrats to Marc for his publication in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods! (2017)
  • Mapping the Brain to Address Mental Illness - Draper Fellow (Nicole) decodes brain signals to demonstrate potential of Deep Brain Stimulation - Draper News (2017)
  • Congrats to Caleb on receiving the Neal B. Mitchell '58 Award – Systems Thinking Project Award to support his summer research in the lab! (2017)
  • Congrats to Derrick for his publication, "Advances in Retinal Prosthetic Research" Current Eye Research (2017)
  • Congrats to Radu and Marc on their Neuron Spotlight feature, "On delivering the sense of touch to the human brain," Neuron (2017)
  • "A brain-spine interface alleviating gait deficits after spinal cord injury in primates," Nature - Press: NYTimes , NPR , TIME, Gizmodo (2016)
  • Borton lab receives a BRAIN Initiative grant for work on deep brain stimulation therapy for OCD, with Dr. Wayne Goodman (2016)
  • Prof. Borton receives DARPA Young Faculty Award for work on restoration of lower limb proprioception (2015)
  • Borton lab receives International Foundation for Research in Paraplegia award for work on cervical spinal cord stimulation to restore upper limb motor function (2015)
  • Nicole Provenza receives the Draper Fellowship for her Masters work in the Borton lab (2015)
  • Wireless brain sensor could unchain neuroscience from cables (2014)
  • Brown new faculty profiles are out!
  • "Wireless, implanted sensor broadens range of brain research,” NIH News, March 19 (2013)
  • “Wireless option developed for brain-powered device,” Science Daily, March 6 (2013)
  • “Yorkshire Pigs Control Computer Gear With Brain Waves,” Wired, March 5 (2013)
  • Recent lab events

    Funding

    We are funded by the International Foundation for Research in Paraplegia (IRP), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through the Young Faculty Award (YFA), the National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke, the National Institute for Mental Health, General Electric Global Research, Draper, and Brown University Seed funds

    Lab projects

    BrainCell

    Historically, brain machine interfaces (BMIs) have traded high spatial resolution for limited cortical coverage. We are developing implantable devices that bridge the gap between resolution and scope. BrainCell is a platform technology being designed to allow high channel count, distributed access to the nervous system. With both read and write capabilities, it will be well suited for low latency closed-loop neural interfaces as well as more traditional neuroscientific exploration. Flexible electronics will allow users to customize operation of the device to suit experimental needs and even mix-and-match different neural probes. The device is being designed with the goal of future clinical translation, and we envision Braincell as the system that will enable clinicians and researchers to place nodes anywhere on the cortex, agnostic to location and therefore to the specific needs of the treatment or experiment being performed.

    Sensorimotor Integration

    Tactile sensory feedback is essential for effective motor control during object manipulation. Recently, there has been a significant effort to develop high degree of freedom motor prostheses capable of neural control. However, these interfaces often rely on the user’s visual feedback to update control parameters. We are interested in studying how the brain encodes sensory information as it relates to its use in motor control. By simultaneously recording from motor and sensory areas of the brain while a nonhuman primate performs a sensory-based object manipulation task, we aim to deepen our understanding of sensorimotor integration in the brain. Ultimately, we aim to “write” sensory information into the nervous system to providing meaningful tactile feedback to users of neural prosthetic devices.

    Neurofilm

    Chronic immune responses to neural devices in the brain are complex and multifaceted, influenced by the materials, mechanical properties, and size of the device. However, a common factor in chronic immune responses is the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as part of the inflammatory signaling cascade as well as a key component of the frustrated phagocytosis response. While production of ROS is vital to normal tissue function, the overproduction of ROS associated with chronic inflammation can drive the tissue into oxidative stress and result in neurodegeneration and damage to the implanted materials. With the NeuroFilm project, we aim to treat the tissue reaction by neutralizing ROS with a local delivery of antioxidants from a thin film on the insulative surface of the electrode, providing local neuroprotection on the time scale of the chronic immune reaction, not just the acute inflammatory response.

    IV-BMI

    Neural recordings from chronic implants can be unreliable over time due to instability of device-tissue interactions. Because chronic inflammatory reactions and subsequent neurodegeneration and recorded signal loss occur many months after implantation, the iterative process of testing novel treatments for the tissue response is slow and costly. The In Vitro Brain-Machine Interface (IV-BMI) project aims to develop a physiologically relevant in vitro platform for accelerated screening of potential treatments. Primary cortical, three-dimensional, self-assembled microtissues contain all of the key cell types involved in the chronic foreign body response, and display more physiologically relevant morphology and cell migration behavior compared to traditional two-dimensional cell culture models.

    NeuralBorealis: Fluorescent Live Cell Imaging in Neural Microtissue

    The NeuralBorealis project aims to transition the IV-BMI cell culture model into a live cell imaging compatible platform through induced expression of fluorescent markers in the key cell types involved in the chronic inflammatory response. Live cell imaging of these three dimensional microtissues will allow for longitudinal examination of the device tissue interface in real time.

    Understanding Cortical Control of Locomotion

    The field of brain-machine interfaces (BMI) for restoring forelimb motor function has made considerable progress over the last few decades. However, the development of hind-limb counterparts have remained relatively nascent. Although there have been recent advancements in restoring basic locomotion in both animal models and in the clinic, the number of developments for neuroprosthetics allowing direct control over voluntary hind-limb movements is still sparse. In this project, we are developing a closed-loop BMI system allowing for direct end-point control of the foot. Using implanted multi-electrode arrays and machine learning techniques, neural signals recorded from motor cortex will be decoded and translated into movement of a robotic actuator in real time. The viability and functionality of our system will be validated in a pedal positioning task. Additionally, in order to integrate both voluntary hind-limb movements with autonomous locomotion into one general-purpose BMI, it is necessary to understand how the motor cortex encodes hind-limb movement during these two behaviors. We employ an obstacle avoidance paradigm to probe the neural correlates and network dynamics of leg-M1 during both voluntary (e.g. originating from cortical areas) and autonomous (e.g. originating from spinal circuits) action. The ultimate goal would be to develop general-purpose, high-functioning neuroprosthetics for the hind-limb allowing for a wide variety of motor actions and enabling patients to regain full lower limb function.

    Proprioprosthetics

    Spinal cord stimulation delivers proprioceptive information to the animal. The effects of that stimulation are observed in the somatosensory cortex. In an intact organism, locomotion and posture are controlled effortlessly and accurately with feedback from proprioceptive somatosensory pathways. The technology we are developing seeks to provide the users of an instrumented prosthetic leg with rich and naturalistic feedback about their prosthesis so that they might move with equal finesse. By mimicking the pattern of neural activation that would be observed from an intact limb and delivering it to the nervous system through epidural spinal cord stimulation, we believe we can make the users perceive the movements of their prosthetic as they would their own limbs. Toward that goal, we are performing an experiment where an intact non-human primate discriminates the magnitude of a passive leg movement.

    Neural Dynamics of Pain Processing in the Spine-Brain Continuum

    This project focuses on the neural dynamics governing pain processing. Our goal is to develop a mechanistic framework of pain relay in order to optimize chronic pain therapies, such as spinal cord stimulation (SCS). While SCS has been used to treat chronic pain patients, it is unclear how stimulation modulates neural circuits that are responsible for pain perception. Therefore, we are developing biophysically realistic neural models of spinal and cortical circuits implicated in pain processing to examine the effects of electrical stimulation on neural activity. In parallel efforts, we are recording acute and chronic electrophysiology in mice to study spinal and cortical circuits in vivo in response to sensory stimuli.

    Corticospinal Neurovascular Dynamics in Health and Disease

    Our understanding of the cellular mechanisms underlying the processing of tactile and nociceptive signals in the spinal cord is still in its infancy. In the recent years, several studies have emerged advancing our understanding of these mechanisms by revealing the implicated cellular species. However, despite the value of this new evidence, the up-to-date in vivo studies primarily relied on pharmacogenetic approaches, offering only static information on these intricately dynamic processes. We approach this question of spinal cord information processing in health and disease by employing one- and two-photon imaging in behaving transgenic animals. This allows us to eavesdrop on neurovascular dynamics during various tactile and painful stimuli. Better understanding of these dynamics is of particular interest for clinical pain management. One particular therapeutic intervention of high relevance is electrical spinal cord stimulation. This therapy can offer significant pain relief and is administered in thousands of new patients every year, but comes with significant inter-patient variability and decline of efficacy over time. The origins of these shortcomings remain unknown. To shed some light on the possible mechanisms behind spinal cord stimulation therapy, we employ electrical stimulation using custom-designed spinal probes in conjunction with spinal microscopic imaging. This multi-modal approach enables our unique ability of asking both the basic and clinical neuroscience questions about spinal processing of tactile and painful stimuli under normal and electrically stimulated conditions.

    Circuit Mechanisms Underlying EEG Correlates of Pain

    Finding and characterizing relevant biomarkers of pain perception in the cortex presents a useful yet difficult task for those who wish to treat pain disorders. While many brain regions and imaging modalities appear to correspond with various aspects of nociceptive processing (neural processing resulting from activation of pain fibers), this project strives to uncover circuit mechanisms underlying noxious, early-latency evoked responses of the somatosensory cortex. To accomplish this, we use a biophysically-principled neural model that simulates the primary electrical currents underlying EEG (Human Neocortical Neurosolver, HNN) evoked response potentials of painful versus non-painful sensory stimuli.

    Using Neuromodulation to Probe Frontostriatal Circuits

    Corticostriatal circuitry is widely thought to be involved in cognitive functions, such as evidence accumulation, reward evaluation and processing, and ultimately decision-making and action selection. Maladaptations in this circuitry are implicated in the development of neuropsychiatric illnesses. In addition to these maladaptations not being well understood, the mechanisms of therapeutic intervention for these illnesses, such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) are also elusive. Our goal is to decouple key cognitive processes underlying decision-making to inform closed-loop neuromodulation of frontal-striatal circuits, as well as to investigate the effects of targeted DBS on these circuits for the treatment for neuropsychiatric conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.

    Responsive Neuromodulation for Neuropsychiatric Illness

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric illness marked by obsessions (recurrent unwanted or distressing thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive, ritualistic behaviors). OCD affects ~2% of the US population, and 10-20% of cases are treatment resistant. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) in the ventral capsule/ventral striatum (VC/VS) has been found to improve symptoms in approximately 50-70% of patients. While early trials of DBS have been promising, clinical trials have failed to date. These failures may be attributed to the “open-loop” nature of DBS, where stimulation parameters are chosen during infrequent visits to the clinician’s office. Further, the continuous stimulation fails to address the dynamic nature of OCD; symptoms often fluctuate over minutes to days. Titrating DBS to respond to symptoms as they arise (i.e. “Adaptive DBS”) may be a more effective approach for treating symptoms of OCD and reducing undesirable side effects of stimulation. We hope to design a closed-loop, adaptive system in which (1) electrodes would continuously record electrical activity from the brain, (2) recorded data would be used to classify maladaptive mental states as they arise, (3) and stimulation parameters would be adjusted accordingly to relieve symptoms.

    People in the lab

    David A. Borton (Neuroengineer, PI)
    164 Angell Street, Room 419
    401.863.2963
    Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering
    School of Engineering
    Carney Institute for Brain Science
    Providence VA Medical Center, Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology
    Email
    NeuroTree
    Vitae

    Technical and administrative staff

    Aaron Gregoire
    Technical research assistant
    Email
    Vitae
    Viola Crawford
    Administrative assistant
    Email
    Maria Isabel Diaz
    Research coordinator
    Email

    Graduate students

    David Xing
    Ph.D. Student in Biomedical Engineering
    Understanding cortical control for locomotion
    Email
    Dmitrijs Celinskis
    Ph.D. Student in Biomedical Engineering
    Corticospinal Neurovascular Dynamics in Health and Disease
    Email
    Marc Powell
    Ph.D. Student in Biomedical Engineering
    BrainCell || Sensorimotor Integration
    Email
    Radu Darie
    Ph.D. Student in Biomedical Engineering
    Proprioprosthetics
    Email
    Elaina Atherton
    Ph.D. Student in Biotechnology
    Neurofilm || IV-BMI
    Email
    Chris Black
    Ph.D. Student in Biomedical Engineering
    Neural Dynamics of Pain Processing in the Spine-Brain Continuum
    Email
    Nicole Provenza
    Ph.D. Student in Biomedical Engineering
    Draper Fellow
    Responsive Neuromodulation for Neuropsychiatric Illness
    Email
    Anusha Allawala
    Ph.D. Student in Biomedical Engineering
    NSF Fellow
    Using Neuromodulation to Probe Frontostriatal Circuits
    Email

    Masters students

    Sophie Brown
    Biomedical Engineering
    NeuralBorealis
    Email
    Yang Jiao
    Biomedical Engineering
    Email

    Undergraduate students

    Adam Friedberg
    Research assistant
    Email
    Evan Dastin-van Rijn
    Research assistant
    Email
    Beatriz de Arruda
    UTRA - Biomedical Engineering
    Motor cortex control of primate locomotion
    Email
    Mariel Rosic
    Research assistant
    Email
    Danielle Rosenblit
    Research assistant
    Email
    Jennifer Griffith
    Research assistant
    Email
    Fatimah AlShaikh
    Research assistant
    Email
    Tanaya Puranik
    Research assistant
    Email

    Collaborators

    Moses Goddard, M.D.
    Associate Professor of Surgery
    Sohail Syed, M.D.
    Resident Physician in the Department of Neurosurgery
    Brown University/Lifespan Hospital
    Email

    Alumni

    Ph.D. students
    Xiaoxiao Hou
    Ph.D. Electrical Engineering (Apple, inc.)
    Master's students
    Yinong Wang
    M.S. Biomedical Engineering (3M, Artificial Intelligence)
    Sarah Syrop
    M.S. Biomedical Engineering (Phillips, Design Engineering)
    Johnny Ciancibello
    M.S. Biomedical Engineering (Feinstein Institute for Medical Research)
    Undergraduate students
    Caleb Tulloss
    B.S. Electrical Engineering (Now at Columbia, Ph.D.)
    Sarah Pratt
    B.S. Computer Science
    Joseph Faller
    B.S. Chemistry (Now at McMaster-Carr)
    Derrick Cheng
    B.S. Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations (Now Medical student at Brown)
    Placid Unegbu
    B.S. Electrical Engineering (Now at U.Penn, M.S.)
    Ben Ferleger
    B.S. Biomedical Engineering (Now Ph.D. student at UW Biorobotics Lab)
    Omar Nema
    B.S. Biomedical Engineering (Product Analyst at Arcadia Healthcare Solutions)
    International students
    Nicolas Gonzalez-Castro
    Bioengineering Undergraduate (CES, Medellin Colombia)
    Matheus Ferreira
    Control Engineering (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

    Publications

    2019
    Provenza, N., Allawala, A., Borton, D. The Case for Adaptive Neuromodulation to Treat Severe Intractable Mental Disorders. Frontiers in Neuroscience
    2018
    Black, C., Darie, R., Borton, D. Organic Electronics for Artificial Touch. Trends in Neuroscience
    2017
    Powell, M., Hou, X., Galligan, C., Ashe, J., Borton, D. Toward multi-area distributed network of implanted neural interrogators. SPIE Biosensing and Nanomedicine X
    Cheng, D., Greenberg, P., Borton, D. Advances in Retinal Prosthetic Research: A Systematic Review of Engineering and Clinical Characteristics of Current Prosthetic Initiatives. Current Eye Research
    Darie, R., Powell, M., Borton, D. On delivering the sense of touch to the human brain. Neuron
    Powell, M., Britz, W., Harper, J., Borton, D. An engineered home environment for untethered data telemetry from nonhuman primates. Journal of Neuroscience Methods
    2016
    Capogrosso, M., et al. A brain-spine interface alleviating gait deficits after spinal cord injury in primates. Nature
    2015
    Dai, J, et al. Modified toolbox for optogenetics in the nonhuman primate. Neurophotonics
    May, T, et al. Detection of Optogenetic Stimulation in Somatosensory Cortex by Non-Human Primates-Towards Artificial Tactile Sensation. PloS one
    2014
    Yin, M., Borton, D.A., et al. Wireless Neurosensor for Full-Spectrum Electrophysiology Recordings during Free Behavior. Neuron
    Borton, D., et al. Corticospinal neuroprostheses to restore locomotion after spinal cord injury. Neurosci Res
    2013
    Borton, D., Micera, S., Millan Jdel, R. & Courtine, G. Personalized neuroprosthetics. Sci Transl Med 5, 212.
    Borton, D.A., Yin, M., Aceros, J. & Nurmikko, A. An implantable wireless neural interface for recording cortical circuit dynamics in moving primates. Journal of neural engineering 10, 026010-026010
    Borton DA, Nurmikko A V. Wireless, Implantable Neuroprostheses: Applying Advanced Technology to Untether the Mind. Future Trends in Microelectronics. 286–299
    PDF
    Yin, M., Borton, D.A., Aceros, J., Patterson, W.R. & Nurmikko, A.V. A 100-channel hermetically sealed implantable device for wireless neurosensing applications. ISCAS. 2629-2632
    PDF
    2012
    Wang, J., et al. Integrated device for combined optical neuromodulation and electrical recording for chronic in vivo applications. Journal of neural engineering 9, 016001-016001
    2011
    Borton, D., et al. Developing implantable neuroprosthetics: a new model in pig. 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. 3024-3030
    Aceros, J., Yin, M., Borton, D.A., Patterson, W.R. & Nurmikko, A.V. A 32-channel fully implantable wireless neurosensor for simultaneous recording from two cortical regions. 34th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. 2300-2306
    2010
    Wang, J., Borton, D.A., Zhang, J., Burwell, R.D. & Nurmikko, A.V. A neurophotonic device for stimulation and recording of neural microcircuits. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. 2935-2938
    Nurmikko, A.V., et al. Listening to Brain Microcircuits for Interfacing With External World-Progress in Wireless Implantable Microelectronic Neuroengineering Devices. Proc IEEE Inst Electr Electron Eng 98, 375-388
    2009
    Song, Y.K., et al. Active microelectronic neurosensor arrays for implantable brain communication interfaces. IEEE transactions on neural systems and rehabilitation engineering 17, 339-345

    Invited presentations

    2015
    Rewiring the nervous system, without wires
    @Rhode Island Hospital Neurosurgical / Neurology Grand Rounds
    Providence, Rhode Island
    Packaging Challenges for a new Class of Devices: Neural Interfaces
    @2015 Electronics Packaging Symposium
    Niskayuna, New York
    Rewiring the nervous system, without wires.
    @UW NSF CSNE Kavli Seminar
    Seattle, Washington
    2014
    A connection-free translational analysis platform for neuromotor disease research and therapeutic validation
    @McGowan Institute for Rehabilitation Retreat
    Pittsburg, Pensylvania
    The brain in the wild
    @Fudan University
    Shanghai, China
    2013
    Neuroprosthetic technologies to restore motor functions after SCI
    @SIAMOC Plenary lecture
    Pisa, Italy
    Innovation, Integration, Translation - a platform for the investigation of neuromotor disease
    @Seoul National University
    Seoul, South Korea

    Conference presentations

    2015
    Chicago, Il
    Chicago, Il
    Powell, M., Xing, D., Darie, R., Gregoire, A., Zimmermann, J., Britz, W., Harper, J.S., Borton, D.A. Radio-transparent enclosures for enabling wireless home-cage recordings of non-human primates. Society for Neuroscience
    Chicago, Il

    Help wanted!

    We are looking for driven scientists to help us design, build and implement novel neurotechnology for investigating the nervous system. Students with an electrical engineering and/or neuroscience background are encouraged to apply. If interested in joining the lab, please contact our research coordinator, Maria Isabel Diaz, for more information.

    Postdoctoral Research Associate openings:

  • Spinal information processing

    We invite applications for a Postdoctoral Research Associate to help advance our understanding of information processing in the spinal cord. We are building an Intelligent Spine Interface (ISI) capable of reading and writing simultaneously to, and from, the spinal cord. The project will leverage constantly evolving neurotechnology built within the team, and the applicant should have comfortability using standard electrophysiological tools. The position is located at Brown University main campus in Providence, RI. Competitive salary and the position is available for 1 year with the possibility of extension. The applicant has to be eligible to work in the U.S.

    Interested candidates should email CV and recent publications to Prof. Borton directly - email

  • Doctoral student openings on the following projects:

    We do not have any open doctoral student positions at this time.

    Masters student openings on the following projects:

    We do not have any open master student positions at this time.

    Undergraduate student openings

    We do not have any open positions at this time, but we highly encourage interested undergraduate students to contact us.

    Contact information

    Office

    Main:
    Robert J. & Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science
    164 Angell Street, Room 419, Providence, Rhode Island 02912
    Email:
    vy_crawford@brown.edu (Administrative assistant)
    maria_isabel_diaz@brown.edu (Research coordinator)
    Phone:
    +1.401.863.1501
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    Barus and Holley Building
    182 Hope Street Providence, Room 733, Rhode Island 02912

    Laboratories

    Medical Research Labs, Room 201 and 205 (MRL)
    89 Waterman Street, Providence RI 02912
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    Brown University School of Engineering - 164 Angell Street - Providence, RI 02912 USA
    Updated 2019