Neural Interfaces

Neural Interfaces

Directly interfacing with the nervous system to connect humans with intelligent systems

Our Contribution

Researchers in APL’s Intelligent Systems Center (ISC) are working to restore lost function, augment natural abilities, and enable humans to interface with technology by interpreting and stimulating neural activity.


Advance Functional Restoration

Derek Rollend, computer vision/machine-learning researcher, working with a visually impaired participant to test a retinal prosthesis for identifying objects.

ISC researchers are creating hardware and software to restore lost function to individuals living with sensory, motor, or cognitive impairments. This includes an effort to create machine-learning software that can help restore motor function to people with spinal cord injuries as well as an effort to develop a retinal prosthesis to help people with visual impairments. The team is also working on advanced prostheses that can restore the sense of touch, including sensing temperature, weight, and texture via prosthesis. 

Develop New Nonsurgical Neurotechnologies

To broaden the availability of neural interfaces, ISC researchers are developing techniques to access the brain at high resolution in noninvasive and wearable form factors using advanced optical imaging techniques. The team has developed a next-generation functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) system for sensing neural activity at higher resolution across the entire brain. They are also developing a more focal coherent optical technology for sensing neural activity on the brain’s surface. If successful, this work will help usher in a new era of computing at the speed of thought.

Related Publication

Neurally Interface with Intelligent Systems

Barton Paulhamus, chief of the ISC, and Glenn Oleson deliver a live demonstration of APL’s smart assistive robotic system on the TEDx stage.

ISC researchers are developing systems that integrate neural sensing, AI, and robotics. AI is increasingly able to decompose high-level tasks into low-level actions and to oversee the execution of those actions. A team from the ISC is researching the implications of this paradigm shift, to better understand how humans and machines might optimally interact, and how the additional communication channels enabled by neural interfaces might enrich human–machine interactions. For individuals with cognitive or sensorimotor impairments, intelligent systems can heighten the capabilities that are available for restoring quality of life.

Augment Natural Ability

Neural interfaces open new channels to the external world.  Sensory experiences can be augmented via brain stimulation, and neural sensing creates new methods to control devices.  A team from the ISC is researching how these artificial channels interact with existing sensory and motor pathways, to understand both the additional capabilities enabled by neural interfaces and the overall ethical implications of neurotechnologies.