NEC member Brown University’s BrainGate research project, led by Brown faculty member John Donoghue, recently accepted a $1 million award from the Mirilashvili Memorial Fund B.R.A.I.N. Prize held in Israel. BrainGate aims to develop technologies that will help people suffering from neurological injuries or diseases regain their ability to move and communicate that has suffered as a result of their condition. The research project has the potential to leverage the advances made in brain imaging technology and the reality of a rapidly aging population to attract attention and funding.
The researchers involved in BrainGate have developed a system of electrodes that once implanted in the brain can send a signal to a computer that then sends a command to a device and allows the user to operate the device. Essentially, the brain-computer interface allows users to regain control of their brain function by mimicking the ability of their damaged neurons to control their body movements simply through thought. This step towards a significant advancement in medical technology may one day allow those suffering from neurological diseases or injuries to vastly improve their quality of life.
“We are deeply honored to receive this award,” said Donoghue, co-director of the BrainGate team, a researcher at the Providence V.A. Medical Center and the Henry Merritt Wriston Professor at Brown, where he directs the Brown Institute for Brain Science. “It will support our continued research to help people with paralysis, some of whom cannot speak, to restore their connection to the world around them.”
BrainGate has attracted supporters from throughout New England, including Massachusetts General Hospital, Stamford University, and the Providence VA. The region is well suited for this research pursuit and potential for commercialization of the technology due to the high concentration of academic, medical, and financial institutions with an interest in improving public health. Brown has also received strong support for its brain research by way of public and private grant funding. The New England Council congratulates Brown University on this significant award and applauds its research efforts into the brain and its neurological capabilities.