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Improving neural prosthesis technology

Research Achievements

Improving neural prosthesis technology

Dennis Bourbeau is a BioEngineering doctoral student who does neurophysiological recording from peripheral nerves in an effort to improve neural prosthesis technology. The goal is for artificial limbs to provide sensory feedback to the user by direct microstimulation of nerve pathways. With IGERT funding, Bourbeau has received training in computational modeling from two modeling experts, Bard Ermentrout and Jonathan Rubin, both in the Mathematics department.

With their guidance, Bourbeau developed a model to simulate recruitment of neuronal fibers of different sizes in response to extracellular stimulation. The model is able to explain why intrafascicular electrodes are better able to balance recruitment of large and small fibers, while stimulating with conventional peripheral nerve electrodes recruits large fibers first, contrary to the physiological recruitment order. This combination of neurophysiology and modeling exemplifies the interdisciplinary spirit of the IGERT program.