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The Science and Science Fiction of Nano-Neuro Interfaces

14:00-16:30, Wednesday, 25 September, Fennia II

The concept of machine-brain interfacing evokes images of futuristic scenarios in which we'll be able to control our environment with our mind and, conversely, read and store data from the brain. We'll have to wait quite some time before we can see anything like that in the real world and in the meantime we'll have to stick to sci-fi movies. But beyond science fiction, considerable progress has been made in the past few years in reading electrophysiological signals from neurons with external devices. In addition, several studies have suggested ways in which we can affect neuron activity. Given their size, nanostructures are particularly promising for interacting with neurons.

The two speakers in this session will provide an overview of the science studying the interaction between devices and the nervous system, focusing on organic electronic devices and on graphene and other 2D materials. Most importantly, during the talks and especially during the following panel discussion we'll explore the materials science challenges for the progress of the field, and we shall try to establish what are the realistic goals that we can expect to achieve during the next few years in this exciting biomedical technology area.

Fabio Pulizzi, Nature Nanotechnology 
Kostas Kostarelos, University of Manchester 


14:00-14:05 – Introduction, Fabio Pulizzi

14:05-14:40 Diego Ghezzi  - Medtronic Chair in Neuroengineering, Laboratory of Neural Engineering, EPFL Center for Neuroprosthetics, Lausanne, Switzerland

Neurotechnologies and 2D materials: challenges and opportunities for clinical translation

Neural interfaces are central technologies to restore impaired or lost sensory, motor and cognitive functions. Materials science plays a major role in this field; the development and the use of novel materials is a critical element in order to improve performance and obtain a better clinical outcome. In fact, this field has significantly extended its range of applications with the emergence of flexible, transient, stretchable, and injectable technologies. However, a large gap still exists between cutting-edge research in novel materials for medical devices, and their actual implementation in medical-grade products. In this talk, I will first give an overview of neural interfaces. Then, taking advantage of specific case studies, I will address the main challenges that novel materials should face with respect to clinical applications.

14:40-15:15 Jose A. Garrido - ICREA Research Professor Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), Barcelona, Spain

Graphene neural technologies for neuroscience and medical applications  

Establishing a reliable bidirectional communication interface between the nervous system and electronic devices is crucial for exploiting the full potential of neural prostheses. Despite recent advancements, current microelectrode technologies evidence important shortcomings, e.g. challenging high density integration, low signal-to-noise ratio, poor long-term stability, etc. Thus, efforts to explore novel materials are essential for the development of next-generation neural interfaces. Graphene and graphene-based materials possess a rather exclusive set of physicochemical properties holding great potential for biomedical applications, in particular neural prostheses. This presentation provides an overview on fundamentals and applications of several graphene-based technologies and devices aiming at developing an efficient bidirectional communication with the nervous system. The main goal of this talk is to discuss pros and cons of graphene technologies for bioelectronics and neuroprosthetics, and at the same time to identify the main challenges ahead.  


15:15-16:00 – Panel discussion


Sanna Arpiainen, VTT
Amaia Zurutuza, Graphenea 
Kostas Kostarelos, The University of Manchester

Jose Garrido, ICN2
Diego Ghezzi, EPFL

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Publishing date: 23 April 2020 12:03