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Introduction

In this first 2015 issue of the newsletter, we highlight ground-breaking research on the brain that will help us better understand its intricate functions and potentially offer new insights into neurological diseases. These efforts have been spurred by major investments in brain research by governments worldwide, and gatherings such as the IEEE EMBS BRAIN Grand Challenges Conference, held in Washington, D.C. in November 2014, serve to bring together leading researchers in the field to share new insights, novel approaches, and pioneering developments.

The overall goal of the Brain Grand Challenges Conference was to explore engineering challenges to brain research that coincide with advancing increasingly innovative neurotechnologies. With more than 100 presentations and discussions in areas such as mapping neural circuits, mapping brain dynamics, and control and restoring of brain functions, the event fostered interdisciplinary exchange as more engineers who had not previously worked on the brain are now planning to collaborate on brain research, and inversely, more neuroscientists now also perceive the value of novel tools and technologies that may advance their research goals.

Highlights from the conference included an overview by Peter Bandettini, National Institutes of Health (NIH), on the technical challenges of functional MRI research; Van J. Wadeen, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, discussed recent innovation in mapping structure connectivity of the brain using magnetic resonance (MR); Bruce Wheeler, University of Florida, described how neurotechnology can model the brain in a dish; Bin He, University of Minnesota, reported on a novel technological advancement in noninvasively mapping the human brain for dynamic mapping of epileptic seizure; Miguel Nicolelis, Duke University, detailed an exciting experiment in which an exoskeleton was controlled by noninvasive brain-controlled interface (BCI) at the 2014 World Cup Soccer opening ceremony; Karen Moxon, Drexel University, described exciting research with animals for neurorobotics; and Ed Boyden, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), described recent innovations in his lab in the area of optogenetics.

Here in the Life Sciences Newsletter, we feature a video presentation by Ed Boyden, who leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group at MIT, in which he explores the tools that will aid in further revealing the fundamental mechanisms of brain function. In addition, contributions from researchers Steve Furber and Simon Schultz showcase recent advances in neurotechnology, including brain-inspired computer architecture and systems and cortical interfaces.

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The IEEE Life Sciences eNewsletter is a new initiative to bring forth interesting articles and informative interviews within the exciting field of life sciences every month. Please subscribe to the eNewsletter to receive notification each month when new articles are published.

January 2015 Contributors

Steve FurberSteve Furber CBE FRS FREng is Imperial College London (ICL) Professor of Computer Engineering in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, UK. There, he leads research into asynchronous and low-power systems and, more recently, neural systems engineering.
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Simon SchultzSimon Schultz is Director of the Centre for Neurotechnology at Imperial College London. After receiving degrees in Electrical & Computer Systems Engineering and Physics, he earned his PhD in the area of computational neuroscience under Prof. Edmund Rolls at Oxford.
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