University of Miami Hosts First Neural Engineering Symposium

The University of Miami hosted its first Neural Engineering Symposium on October 13 to promote collaborations among research, educational, and industry programs for this rapidly growing discipline. Ozcan Ozdamar, Ph.D., professor and chair of the College of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, and W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., Scientific Director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Kinetic Concepts Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery, Senior Associate Dean for Discovery Science, and professor of neurological surgery, neurology and cell biology, served as co-directors of the symposium, which was organized by the Department of Biomedical Engineering and The Miami Project with support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

More than 100 attendees from various departments and schools participated in the one-day event, held in the Lois Pope LIFE Center. Researchers discussed more than 50 posters, and a number of invited speakers from the University of Miami, University of Pittsburgh, University of Central Florida, University of Florida and Florida International University presented their most recent work.

Jonathan R. Wolpaw, M.D., Director of the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies at the New York State Department of Health, Wadsworth Center, delivered the keynote address on the development of EEG-based brain-computer interfaces that can restore communication and control to people who are paralyzed by spinal cord injury and other disorders.

In another lecture, Daniel S. Rizzuto, Ph.D., Director of Cognitive Neuromodulation at the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed current research in the development of brain stimulation therapies for patients with memory impairments as part of the DARPA RAM Project.

The meeting was coordinated by Karin Scarpinato, Ph.D., Assistant Provost for Research, with the following interdisciplinary program committee members: Fabrice Manns, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Suhrud Rajguru, Ph.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology, Abhishek Prasad, Ph.D., assistant professor of engineering, Monica Perez, P.T., Ph.D., associate professor of neurological surgery, Vittorio Porciatti, D.Sc., Director and Vice Chairman of Research of the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Vision Research Center at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and Michael E. Hoffer, M.D., professor and Director of the Vestibular and Balance Program in the Department of Otolaryngology. The symposium was structured to enhance collaborations throughout the University and between relevant programs within the state of Florida to enhance research and educational initiatives in the biomedical engineering and neuroscience communities.

The symposium was supported in part by industry sponsors and the Department of Biomedical Engineering and The Miami Project. Future conferences are planned along with a new University of Miami Institute for Neural Engineering that will position the University for funding opportunities requiring established programs that integrate engineering and neuroscience for the assessment and treatment of neurological disorders. This initiative also will be critical for attracting the next generation of trainees to Miami who wish to make a career in this exciting technological discipline.

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