The University of Oklahoma, as one of three key institutes, has been awarded $6M over the next four years by the National Science Foundation to build research infrastructure in the areas of brain science and neural engineering within the State of Oklahoma, as well as with other collaborative institutes from Rhode Island and Kentucky. The project is titled as “Innovative, Broadly Accessible Tools for Brain Imaging, Decoding, and Modulation.” It involves three states: Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Kentucky, and seven institutes: University of Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and Laureate Institute for Brain Research, University of Rhode Island, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital, University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University. The participants will form an interdisciplinary consortium to 1) develop innovative and broadly accessible brain imaging tools and modulation technologies for acquiring fundamental knowledge about how the nervous system functions in healthy and diseased conditions; and 2) develop a diverse workforce in the STEM areas, with particular emphasis on junior faculty, to create and implement these technologies and tools.
The investigators will accelerate development of new portable multimodal brain imaging systems and brain stimulation systems. The technology seeks to realize the potential for combining these systems into hybrid devices that can take advantage of the strengths of each single modality to obtain a more comprehensive picture of brain activity and behavior, and to develop effective treatments for neurological and cognitive impairment. The Rhode Island team focuses on hardware development while both Oklahoma and Kentucky teams develop computational algorithms and implement applications that could benefit from the integrated systems developed through the project. The methods are relevant to basic and clinical studies, with applications in cognitive neuroscience, clinical neuroscience and cognitive psychology. The research will allow the invention and commercialization of low-cost, portable brain imaging and stimulation devices as well as algorithms that will increase accessibility of these technologies to a greater segment of the healthy and patient population. The project also includes multiple components to develop a diverse workforce in the STEM areas, and presents a strategy to engage each important phase of the education and career process, spanning from K-12, undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, to junior faculty.
In Oklahoma, Dr. Lei Ding from the Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering is the PI leading the research and infrastructure development activity among University of Oklahoma at Norman Campus (focusing on algorithm and technology development and application to cognitive development), University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center at Oklahoma City (focusing on application to cognitive impairment), and Laureate Institute for Brain Research at Tulsa (focusing on brain stimulation). These three institutes will form the firm collaborative infrastructure for the brain research involving multiple disciplines (engineering, psychology, neurology, psychiatry, and surgery), as well as to interact with other institutes from Rhode Island and Kentucky. In the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Joseph Havlicek (School of Electrical and Computer Engineering), Dr. David Liu (Psychology), and Dr. Han Yuan (Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering) are participating investigators of the project.
The goal of building research infrastructure in the area of brain science is part of the national effort on advancing technology innovations in understanding the human brain as called in the White House BRAIN Initiative. It is also built upon the establishment of the new Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering in OU College of Engineering with one of its three major thrust research areas as neural engineering. This NSF project will enable the further development of brain research in Oklahoma, enhance the relationship of multiple research institutes in the State, and strengthen national collaborations through consortium in competing more federal funding in areas of relevant topics.