The students had to hand in three assignments this term. The first was a report describing research projects that use neural decoding, beyond the scope of the applications we'd discussed in class. The second assignment was a computational biology assignment: students could either code up the Hodgkin-Huxley model (which also required them to generate the strength-duration curve) or they could attempt to replicate the basic neural model of Hansel 1998 which was discussed earlier in the semester.
The final assignment, which I just graded today, was to write the first two pages of an NIH proposal for the next great neural engineering experiment. The two pages had to encompass Specific Aims and Significance as outlined in the NIH PHS 398 application guidelines. I encouraged students to view the entire scope of neural engineering which we'd covered in the course, and to think about what would constitute a viable new research angle. The results were marvelous - reading these papers this afternoon was a real treat. Here are some of the topics:
- Brain-controlled articulatory speech
- Multi-electrode arrays that can receive "biological" input such as vision and audio
- Enhanced visual prosthetics (I got a couple of these... One student had the neat idea to create virtual retinal electrodes by co-stimulating pairs of adjacent "real" electrodes, as if sometimes done with auditory prostheses)
- Optogenetics: using light to facilitate brain-derived neurotrophic factor release in order to ameliorate symptoms of Parkinsons
- Spine-Machine Interface
- Magnetogenetics: like optogenetics but using a magnetic field to activate ion channels instead of light
- Bionic Sphincter: controlled autonomously via nerves of the viscera.
Clearly we have lots of future Nobel Laureates at Temple. Thanks to everyone for a great semester!