- Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)
- Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR)
Technologies for restauration of lost neuronal functions
The German Ministry of Education and Research funds a »Bernstein Focus Neurotechnology - Hybrid Brain« in Freiburg and Tuebingen as a major initiative to develop new technologies for the treatment and rehabilitation of neurological diseases.
Stroke, injuries to the brain, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and similar neurological syndromes seriously impair the movement and communication capacity of the patients. They reduce the quality of life and limit participation in daily life. In a considerable fraction of cases pharmacological treatment is ineffective or insufficient to alleviate the symptoms. Neurotechnology is a rapidly growing field of research, which, according to our definition, thrives to treat, replace or support physical functions lost through diseases of the nervous system with technical means.
Towards this goal, electrical or chemical signals recorded in the brain are used to control external or implanted devices. Based on the analysis and interpretation of electrical signals, computers could be controlled without keyboard or mouse. Prostheses could be constructed to reinstate voluntary movement based on the activity recorded via brain-machine-interfaces (BMI). Similarly, electrical stimuli or drugs could be delivered not on a regular schedule, but depending on the need determined from brain activity, e.g. to intervene with upcoming epileptic seizures or migraine episodes. Such devices could significantly improve the quality of life of these patients, as do cochlea-implants for the deaf and deep brain stimulators for some patients with Parkinson's disease, devices already in use. Nonetheless, extensive research is needed to improve recording and interpretation of the neuronal signals, to stabilize them for long-term implants, maximize information retrieval and use this to control devices. The electrode-to-tissue interfaces need to be optimized to minimize short- and long-term tissue damage, in particular when used to apply electrical stimuli for defined effects and efficacy. [..]
The German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funds with 10 million Euros a research center: the »Bernstein Focus Neurotechnology« (BFNT-Freiburg/Tuebingen, briefly BFNT-FT) with the title »Hybrid Brain«. The center is an initiative of 32 scientists of the universities of Freiburg and Tuebingen, Germany, their neurological and neurosurgical university clinics, the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics Tuebingen, the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute Reutlingen (NMI). In addition, several industrial partners contribute to the BFNT-FT, namely Multi Channel Systems, Inomed and the Honda Research Institute. [Source: Project web site http://www.bfnt.uni-freiburg.de/
- Inomed Medizintechnik GmbH, Teningen
- Multi Channel Systems MCS GmbH, Reutlingen
- Universität Freiburg
- Universität Tübingen