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Keynote Lectures

Neuroprosthetics for a Better Life: Current Achievements and Future Perspectives
Silvestro Micera, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (Switzerland) and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy

Coding and Decoding of Hand Movements in the Brain
Hansjörg Scherberger, Neurobiology Lab, German Primate Center, Germany

Redefining the Limits of Reorganisation in Body Representation: Insights from Amputees
Tamar Makin, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

The Biomechanics of Sports Injuries and Prevention Strategies
Jim Richards, Allied Health Research unit, University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom

A Engineering Led Approach to Reducing Head in Injuries in Cricket
Andy Harland, Loughborough University, United Kingdom

 

Neuroprosthetics for a Better Life: Current Achievements and Future Perspectives

Silvestro Micera
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (Switzerland) and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna
Italy
 

Brief Bio

Silvestro Micera is currently Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA, Pisa, Italy), and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland) where he is holding the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Translational NeuroEngineering. He received the University degree (Laurea) in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pisa, in 1996, and the Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering from the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, in 2000. From 2000 to 2009, he has been an Assistant Professor of BioRobotics at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna where he is now Professor and the Head of the Translational Neural Engineering Area. In 2007 he was a Visiting Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA with a Fulbright Scholarship. From 2008 to 2011 he was the Head of the Neuroprosthesis Control group and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Institute for Automation, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, CH. In 2009 he was the recipient of the “Early Career Achievement Award” of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. From 2011 he is Associate Professor and Head of the Translational Neural Engineering Laboratory at the EPFL.

Dr. Micera’s research interests include the development of neuroprostheses based on the use of implantable neural interfaces with the central and peripheral nervous systems to restore sensory and motor function in disable persons. In particular, he is currently involved in translational experiments for hand prosthesis control in amputees, and the restoration of vestibular function, grasping and locomotion in different neurological disorders.

He is author of more than 100 ISI scientific papers and several international patents. He is currently Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering and of IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering. He is also member of the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, of Journal of Neural Engineering, and of the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine.


Abstract
Neuroengineering is a novel discipline combining engineering including micro and nanotechnology, electrical and mechanical, and computer science with cellular, molecular, cognitive neuroscience with two main goals: (i) increase our basic knowledge of how the nervous system works; (ii) develop systems able to restore functions in people affected by different types of neural disability. In the past years, several breakthroughs have been reached by neuroengineers in particular on the development of neurotechnologies able to restore sensorimotor functions in disabled people. 

In this presentation, after a general introduction about the results achieved so far by neuroprosthetic systems, two main research activities on this topic carried out by my laboratory in the past years will be presented. First, the recent results achieved after the implantation of intraneural electrodes in an amputee will be presented. We showed that using this approach it is possible to restore the bidirectional connection between a dexterous hand prosthesis and the nervous system. The user was also able to improve his ability to provide useful motor commands over time. 
Then, I will show the results achieved in collaboration with Prof. Courtine at EPFL to restore locomotion using epidural electrical stimulation after spinal cord injury.

Finally, a brief description of neuroprosthetics possible future achievement will be also provided.



 

 

Coding and Decoding of Hand Movements in the Brain

Hansjörg Scherberger
Neurobiology Lab, German Primate Center
Germany
 

Brief Bio

Hans Scherberger received his Master degree in Mathematics (1993) and his Medical Doctor degree (1996) from Freiburg University, Germany. He currently heads the Neurobiology Lab at the German Primate Center and is Professor for Primate Neurobiology at Göttingen University (since 2008). He was trained in systems electrophysiology with post-doctoral positions at the University of Zurich (1995-1998) and at the California Institute of Technology (1998-2003) before becoming a research group leader at the Institute of Neuroinformatics at the University and ETH Zurich (2004-2009). His research is focused on the neural coding and decoding of hand grasping movements in the primate brain. 


Abstract
Hand function plays an important role in all primate species, and its loss is associated with severe disability. Grasping movements are complex motor acts for which the brain needs to integrate sensory and cognitive signals to generate behaviorally meaningful actions. To achieve this computation, specialized brain areas in the primate parietal (anterior intra-parietal area, AIP), premotor (area F5), and primary motor cortex (M1 hand area) are functionally connected. This presentation highlights recent experimental results in non-human primates to characterize how AIP, F5, and M1 generate grasping movements and how such movements can be decoded from spiking activity of these areas using permanently implanted electrode arrays while animals are grasping objects of various shape, size, and orientation. Besides understanding the underlying network structure and function, such characterizations are highly valuable for the development of neural interfaces to restore hand function in paralyzed patients.



 

 

Redefining the Limits of Reorganisation in Body Representation: Insights from Amputees

Tamar Makin
University of Oxford
United Kingdom
 

Brief Bio
Tamar Makin is an Associate Professor at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience of Oxford University. Her group studies plasticity of body representation in healthy populations and in individuals with a hand-loss. Her main interest is in understanding how habitual behaviour, such as prosthetic limb usage, drives brain reorganisation. For this purpose, she integrates methods from the fields of neuroscience, experimental psychology and rehabilitation. Tamar graduated from the Brain and Behavioural Sciences programme at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2009. She then joined the University of Oxford, first as a Newton International Royal Society Fellow and subsequently as a Marie Curie Intra-European Early Career Development Fellow to establish her research program on brain plasticity in amputees. She is currently holding a Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellowship.


Abstract
The loss of a limb has a profound impact on an individual’s daily life. To adapt to their disability, individuals employ a variety of behavioural strategies - some become skilled at using an artificial limb while other prefer to rely on their remaining body parts. Their brain, too, will undergo major changes. Many studies have shown that the region of the brain that controlled the (now missing) limb can be “taken over” by another body part. Such reorganisation in the brain may pose challenges for brain-based assistive devices (e.g. neuroprosthetics), as these techniques often build on resources normally devoted to the (now missing) limb.

In my talk I will describe recent research in amputees that provides new insight into brain reorganisation. I will show that contrary to textbook wisdom, reorganisation is not restricted to the cortical neighbourhood of the missing hand, and is instead determined by the adaptive behavioural strategies that individuals adopt to compensate for their disability. I will show that the “freed up” cortical resources of the missing hand can be used by a multitude of body parts, and even artificial limbs. I will then turn to consider the boundaries of reorganisation in the adult brain, by demonstrating that the functional layout in the missing hand territory is preserved despite decades of amputation, providing new opportunities for intuitive brain-machine interfaces. By characterising the plasticity of brain and behaviour these findings could inform the development of rehabilitation techniques.



 

 

The Biomechanics of Sports Injuries and Prevention Strategies

Jim Richards
Allied Health Research unit, University of Central Lancashire
United Kingdom
 

Brief Bio
Jim Richards was appointed Professor in Biomechanics and research lead for Allied Health Professions at University of Central Lancashire in 2004. Professor Richards work includes the clinical application of biomechanics, the development of new assessment tools for chronic disease, conservative and surgical management of orthopaedic and neurological conditions, and development of evidence based approaches for improving clinical management and rehabilitation. The focus of Professor Richards work is to encourage inter-professional research and to develop direct parallels with research to the ‘real world’ of allied health work. Professor Richards holds International Professorial Chair positions at the University of Perugia, Italy; the National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan; Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal and Palacky University Olomouc, Czech Republic and School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Singapore Polytechnic and is an associate editor for “The Knee”. Professor Richards has authored over 300 papers and written and edited a number of textbooks including Biomechanics in Clinic and Research (2008) and the 5th edition of Whittle’s Gait Analysis (2012). He has also contributed to Tidy’s Physiotherapy (2003, 2008, 2012), the 10th edition of Mercer's Textbook of Orthopaedics and Trauma (2012), and Experimental Research Methods: A Guidebook for Studies in Trauma Care (2015).


Abstract
Much of the biomechanical testing in sport is still conducted using very simple biomechanical models. However these do not allow a complete picture of the movement and forces acting about the foot, ankle and knee joints during tasks involving large amounts of rotation and medial-lateral loading, despite these frequently being linked with injuries during sporting tasks by clinicians. With the most common injury sites being around the ankle and knee joints.

There is an evident demand for an increase in understanding of joint mechanics during sporting and functional tasks. The latest techniques in biomechanics allow us to model each body segment in ever increasing detail. We can now measure movement of the body segments in rotation and translation independently during complex tasks. This is particularly interesting in complex sports movements and can help our understanding of injury mechanisms.

This talk will focus on the ankle and knee joints and will discuss what information biomechanics can tell now us, how this relates to injury mechanisms and our understanding of potential preventive injury and re-injury interventions and how these can be related to a clinical benefit to individuals.



 

 

A Engineering Led Approach to Reducing Head in Injuries in Cricket

Andy Harland
Loughborough University
United Kingdom
 

Brief Bio
Dr Andy Harland graduated with a first degree in Engineering Science and Technology before completing a PhD at Loughborough University in partnership with National Physical Laboratory on the topic of optical methods for underwater and medical acoustic measurement.  Soon afterwards he followed his passion and moved into sports engineering and has progressed to become Director of Sports Technology Institute, one of the World’s leading academic centre of its kind.  Dr Harland has been an investigator on over £4M of research projects and supervised 19 PhDs to completion.  He has undertaken research in partnership with FIFA, International Cricket Council, International Hockey Federation, adidas, England and Wales Cricket Board, Dunlop Slazenger among others and authored over 70 peer reviewed publications.


Abstract
In a 10 year period between 2003 and 2013, over 50 serious or career threatening injuries were recorded in professional cricket by batters hit on the head or face whilst wearing a protective helmet. The game of cricket at the elite level, where a 156g ball can be delivered upwards of 90 mph (~145 kph) towards a batter stood 20 m away presents significant risk of injury should it impact an unprotected location on the body or head. For this reason, players and manufacturers have developed items of protective clothing, many of which are embedded within the traditions of the game, although none are required to be worn under the laws of the game. In this keynote, Dr Harland will describe how an engineering approach using advanced measurement methods were employed to not only identify deficiencies in helmet performance but also the product safety standards and outline the partnership approach required to bring about real change within the game. By analysing the specific detail of known injury cases, laboratory based apparatus were developed capable of replicating conditions and the performance of a range of commercially available helmets assessed. Together with standards agencies, helmet manufacturers and stakeholders within the sport, awareness and understanding of player safety has improved significantly and incidences of injury reduced. Dr Harland will also explore how methods and approaches used in addressing safety issues in sport are also being applied to enhance the performance and comfort of athletes in products used across a range of other sports.



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