Two Decades of Unleashing the Power of Neural Engineering and Brain Discovery

Two Decades of Unleashing the Power of Neural Engineering and Brain Discovery 150 150 IEEE EMBS

IEEE EMBS Celebrates 20 Years of Impactful Contributions

In March 2003 the inaugural International IEEE EMBS Neural Engineering Conference (NER) brought together more than 200 researchers from 30 countries on Capri Island, Italy to present high-quality papers exploring the dimensions of the emerging field of Neural Engineering and while highlighting new directions for research. Generous support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) made it possible for 19 students and some postdocs and junior faculty to also present their papers at the conference.

Dr. Metin Akay, a pioneer in the field of neural engineering and the founding chair of the IEEE EMBS Neural Engineering Conference, has long been an advocate for the interdisciplinary nature of this emerging field. At the opening ceremony of the conference, Dr. Akay described how neural engineering encompasses a wide range of areas, from restoring lost abilities to neurorobotics and cognitive neuroscience.

One of the defining talks of the conference was given by Dr. Carol Lucas, the biomedical program director of the NSF at the time. Dr. Lucas provided insights into the future of neural engineering and neuroscience initiatives at the NSF. Her talk complemented the nearly 200 papers presented, which spanned an impressive array of topics, including neural informatics, behavioral dynamics, and brain imaging. Reflecting the scope of the field, the papers covered areas such as control of neurological systems, neural prostheses, and the brain-computer interface. Additionally, the keynote lecture by Prof. Kamil Ugurbil of the University of Minnesota showcased new advances in imaging and their impact on cognitive neurosciences. The conference was a remarkable display of the interdisciplinary nature of neural engineering.

In addition, the six plenary talks during the program also reflected this diversity:

  • “Connecting Brains with Machines: The Neural Control 2D Cursor Movement,” Michael J. Black, Department of Computer Science, Brown University, USA
  • “Interfacing Neural and Artificial Systems: From Neuroengineering to Neurorobotics,”
    Paolo Dario, Scuola Superiore Sant’ Anna, Pisa, Italy
  • “Semiconductor Chips with Ion Channels, Nerve Cells and Brain Slices,” Peter Fromherz, Department of Membrane and Neurophysics, Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Germany”Representations and Dynamics of Representations of Simple Visual Stimuli by Ensembles of Neurons in Cat Visual Cortex Studied with a Microelectrode Array,” Richard A. Normann, University of Utah, USA.
  • “Peripheral Nerve Stimulation in Neurological Rehabilitation,” Thomas Sinkjar, Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction, Department of Medical Informatics and Image Analysis, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • “Signal Processing for the Brain Machine Interface System,” Jose Principe, University of Florida, USA.

Concluding the conference with a celebratory banquet, Prof. M. Bracale of the University of Naples presented the history of Capri Island and introduced the Capri Folk dance group, which entertained attendees with Neapolitan songs and dances until dawn. The event was the perfect conclusion of a conference which brought together researchers from around the world to stimulate research and education in neural engineering, technology, rehabilitation, and brain discovery.

Dr. Akay often declares the inaugural NER conference, “a paradigm-shift for the students and post-docs who attended.” adding, “Many attendees of the first NER have become distinguished professors at respected universities and institutes as well as Research Center Directors, government policy makers, CEOs, and entrepreneurs in the flourishing Neurotech industry.”

NER Marks 10th Anniversary

The tireless efforts of Dr. Metin Akay and Dr. Bin He propelled the IEEE EMBS Neural Engineering Conference to new heights in 2013 in San Diego. Former President of the IEEE EMBS, Bruce Wheeler, underscored the significance of the conference, stating, “The conference has evolved into a global platform for world leaders in neural engineering to exchange knowledge and insights, with international participation and a strong emphasis on student involvement and awards.” He added, “The success of the conference is also the culmination of a long and dedicated development since the first Neural Engineering Conference held in Capri, Italy, in 2003. Dr. Akay showed great leadership and foresight in starting the conference, and he continued his efforts to steadily grow the conference as it moved to different locations”. He also said “Recent high-profile initiatives in Europe and the United States have catapulted neural engineering to the forefront of scientific research, with a focus on gaining a better understanding of the brain and finding cures for neurological disorders and this conference is a testament to the IEEE EMBS’s unwavering commitment to advancing the field of neural engineering and supporting its members, who are making a tangible impact in the field.”

NER on Trajectory to 20th Anniversary of Impacting Neural Engineering and Brain Discovery

The 2015 EMBS Neural Engineering Conference, organized by David Guiraud, Nigel Lovell, Thomas Stieglitz and Christine Avevedo-Coste, was a tremendous success in Montpellier, France. Attendees from all over the world enjoyed a robust exchange of ideas and insights into the latest developments in neural engineering.

In 2017, the conference moved to Shanghai, organized by Shanbao Tong, Jose Principe, Lei Ding and Paul Sajda, and marked a historic milestone as the first-ever conference of its kind to be held in Asia. The gathering drew an impressive lineup of researchers and thought leaders, further solidifying the importance of the conference in advancing the field.

The 2019 conference in San Francisco, organized by Jose Carmena, Paul Sajda, Michel Maharbiz, Cynthia Chestek and Jo Jo Plott proved to be a crucial meeting point for neurotech industry and clinicians, drawing interest from a wide range of stakeholders in the field. Attendees were treated to a stimulating program of lectures, presentations, and workshops, with valuable insights and key takeaways for all.

In 2021, the conference made history once again, transitioning to a fully online format due to the pandemic. Despite the challenges, the event was expertly organized and drew an even larger audience than ever before, reaching people from all corners of the globe.

Finally, the 2023 conference, organized by Pedro Irazoqui, Najim Dehak, David Blodgett, Erika Ross, Nithish Thakor, Archana Venkataraman, was a resounding success, focusing on the theme of Artificial Intelligence in Neural Engineering. Attendees were treated to a lineup of keynote speakers that included Mounya Elhilali, Amadeu Llebaria, Jacob Robinson and Tim Denison, all of whom shared fascinating insights into their groundbreaking work.

“Continuing to promote, foster, and nurture the growth of Neural Engineering and Technology and Brain Discovery, globally, is essential,” notes Dr. Akay. “With the IEEE EMBS at the forefront of these efforts, we can look forward to even more groundbreaking advances in the years to come, driving forward the wellness of humanity as a whole.”

About IEEE

IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) is the world’s largest international society of biomedical engineers. The organization’s more than 9,000 members reside in some 97 countries around the world. EMBS provides its members with access to the people, practices, information, ideas, and opinions that are shaping one of the fastest-growing fields in science.

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