Research Sponsors

NSERC Canada Research Chairs Canadian Institutes of Health Research Canada Foundation for Innovation McGill Fonds de recherche sur la nature et les technologies

Neuroscience Lab

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I am interested in studying many different aspects of how we look and reach so that we can build an optimal neural prosthetic. Specifically, my lab will study how certain areas of the brain encode movement goals to arbitrary locations in space under complex conditions that mimic natural behaviour. We will then attempt to decode these movement plans in real-time in order to develop devices that can be controlled by a variety of cognitive signals. Some of current projects involve the following:

The Effects of body movements on the motor plan.

Even though eye movements are stereotyped and coupled to the hand and that fixation tends to land on reach targets eye movements that affect the reach plan are problematic for prosthetic systems. Remember we want to decode goals and we have to make sure these goals are invariant to shifts in the reference frames. We will use saccades and smooth pursuit eye movements to statically and dynamically shift the location of the visual target during reaching. In order for updating to take place, we predict that activity related to smooth pursuit eye movements will be found in brain areas involved in spatially updating reach targets.

Amplitude encoding in the parietal cortex.

Whenever human or non-human primates plan a reach, the direction and the amplitude of the reach need to be specified in the reach plan to accurately reach targets at arbitrary locations. Both variables need to be known to decode motor plans to arbitrary targets in space. We have some preliminary data that shows that PRR does carry information about the amplitude of a reach.

Other Projects:

    Effect of reward on reaches and its relation to plasticity.
    Testing new arrays in rats.
    Brain control trials under natural behaviour.
    Effect of vestibular stimulation on motor plans.
    Linearity of the vestibular system.

Engineering Lab

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Brain Implant Fabrication.

We intend to develop implants for the brain and the body. We have started with a simple design. Only electrical contacts are shown but what is novel about this array is that it will have other functions such as the ability to measure oxygen and ph and other stuff but that is not shown here. The McGill array consists of 5 tapered probe shafts that can be fabricated using the standard MicraGem process from Microlyne, Inc. available through the Canadian Microelectronics Corporation (CMC). Each tapered probe shaft measures 6.5mm in length and its shape is divided into three regions (i) support base region (ii) measuring region and (iii) piercing region. The support base region measures 250m. The measuring region has 3 metallic (gold) recording sites spaced 1mm apart. The shafts are made of the silicon SCSi layer of the MicraGem process which is 10 m thick. Post-processing will be performed on the fabricated samples to remove the glass substrate leaving only the silicon probes. In addition, an insulating encapsulation layer will be deposited on the metallic trace lines connecting the recording sites on the probe shafts to the read-out pads using the Direct-Write technique. The optical sensor uses a fiber optic cable (300m diameter) coated with the target-analyte sensitive layer at the end of the cable that is inserted into the brain.

Other Projects:

    Development of computer programs that can be used by paralyzed patients.
    Development of low power circuits that can be mounted on the skull for signal conditioning.
    Development of decode algorithms that take advantage of the unique temporal structure of brain signals.

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