Full Professor, Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Translational Neuroengineering
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
Neural engineering is a novel discipline combining engineering including micro and nanotechnology, electrical and mechanical, and computer science with cellular, molecular, cognitive neuroscience. Our of the most important goals of neural engineering is to develop approaches to repair, restore, and augment sensory and motor functions.
We recently proposed to achieve this goal by exploiting also a new general approach, which we term ‘soft embodiment’. We posit that the objective for (neural) engineers is not always to create systems that are processed exactly like their natural counterparts. It is also to create technologies that can exploit the processing of the body for their own sake. In short, the aim is not always to mimic but also to “recycle” neural resources.
In this presentation, I will provide several examples on how this concept can be used to develop bionic systems to restore and augment sensory and motor functions in different conditions. In particular, I will show how implantable interfaces can be used to restore sensory (tactile and temperature feedback for artificial limbs, visions), motor (grasping, locomotion), and autonomic functions (for cardiovascular problems) and how it is possible to develop effective control strategies for supernumerary limbs.