Brown Engineering Prof. Arto Nurmikko (r) shows his brain research to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Cong. Jim Langevin. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News
By Steve Klamkin WPRO News
Scientists at Brown University studying the human brain opened their laboratories Friday to members of Congress.
Congressman Jim Langevin and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse toured the labs to get a first-hand look at several examples of brain science research.
The tour began in the lab of engineer Arto Nurmikko, who works on wireless implantable brain sensors. They can help paraplegics and others control mechanical arms and other implements using their thoughts.
"We are on the march toward making the brain connected to the environment in a wireless way, that's the mission," said Prof. Nurmikko.
That was followed by a tour of a virtual reality laboratory, the Virtual Environment Navigation lab in the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences. In the lab, scientists led by William Warren study how people perceive an environment and then make decisions to move through it or interact within it in other ways.
"So, as we walk around our normal environments, we have certain kinds of visual information that's coming in all the time," said Prof. Warren. "We're now manipulating that to try to test what information is critical to walking through the door and not walking into a wall."
"It's really impressive," said Senator Whitehouse. "I think Brown is at the lead in, I'd say not just the country but the world, when you look at some of the folks that are competing with them."
Brown says more than 100 researchers and physicians are working in its labs and at affiliated hospitals on developing means to address conditions ranging from severe paralysis to depression, to epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease.