ECE’s Role in BRAIN Science

You may have heard the saying, “humans only use 10% of their brains,” and although this myth has been widely disproven, our understanding of the complex nature and functionalities of the human brain only goes so far. With nearly 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections, the human brain is still one of the greatest mysteries in science, and challenges in medicine.

ECE is contributing to the effort of revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain by participating in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Although the most common academic areas involved in brain research are centered around biology and medicine, electrical and computer engineering plays a surprisingly large role in the attempt to understand more about how the human brain functions at every level of consciousness and healthiness. With research tools ranging from optoacoustic technology to compact fiber laser systems, our ECE faculty are engaging as both primary and collaborative investigators on new BRAIN Initiative projects.

Professor Ji-Xin Cheng, shortly before his election as an OSA Fellow, was awarded a $3.3M grant for the BRAIN Initiative, in his collaboration with Associate Professor Xue Han from the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Read more about what they are planning to accomplish through their research.

Meanwhile, Assistant Professor Michelle Sander is working with Assistant Professor Jerry Chen from the College of Arts and Science’s Department of Biology, on a research project that was granted $2.7M by the NIH BRAIN Initiative. Their goal in this project is to develop high-speed microscope systems and novel sensors to image neuronal activity in a manner that can be combined with other tools to comprehensively dissect the circuits and computations of the brain. Read more about what that could mean for progressing brain research.