Five research organizations and one company have received contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to research and develop technologies needed to create an implantable neural interface that can facilitate communication between the brain and digital systems.
DARPA said Monday the awardees will conduct work under the Neural Engineering System Design program that seeks to demonstrate systems that can potentially support the treatment of sensory problems.
Paradromics and Brown University will focus on aspects of hearing and speech while Columbia University, The Seeing and Hearing Foundation, John B. Pierce Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, will study vision.
“By increasing the capacity of advanced neural interfaces to engage more than one million neurons in parallel, NESD aims to enable rich two-way communication with the brain at a scale that will help deepen our understanding of that organ’s underlying biology, complexity, and function,” said Phillip Alvelda, founding program manager of NESD.
Alvelda added the program seeks to establish a foundation for new neurological therapies.
Under NESD’s first phase, researchers will develop hardware, software and neuroscience then test those new technologies on animals and cultured cells.
The program’s second phase will involve basic studies as well as technology miniaturization and integration efforts.
The teams will also work with the Food and Drug Administration to gain regulatory approval to carry out human safety tests.
NESD researchers will need to address engineering-oriented hardware, bio-compatibility and communication challenges as well as develop mathematical and neuro-computation techniques to decode and encode neural data and compress such information to meet bandwidth and power limits, DARPA noted.
Industry partners will serve as subcontractors to the research teams and provide design assistance, rapid prototyping and fabrication services to help commercialize technologies developed under NESD.