The 12th IEEE Biomedical Circuits and Systems Conference (BioCAS) took place in Shanghai, China, in October 2016. Serving as a premier international forum for researchers and engineers to present their state-of-the-art multidisciplinary research and development activities at the frontiers of medicine, life sciences, and engineering, BioCAS has enjoyed a growing impact in the research community. In addition to the regular oral and poster sessions, two keynote speeches and three insightful tutorials were held. BioCAS2016 retained its tradition of a single track conference and provided lots of opportunities for interactive discussions for more than 200 registrants.
Brain and Electronics at BioCAS2016
Brain-related electronic research has been a hot topic in BioCAS during the past years. With efforts augmented by the large brain research projects funding provided from major economies including the United States, Europe, Japan, and China, it is believed that brain-related research will be accelerated in coming decades. There is no doubt that the BioCAS community will play a vital role. BioCAS2016 acknowledged this trend by arranging the technical programs with a special focus on “connecting the brain with microelectronic circuits,” and tutorials and keynotes were chosen with an emphasis on brain-related research. A first-time post-conference workshop, the Brain Circuits and Systems Workshop (BrainCAS), was dedicated to promoting the exchange of ideas between researchers across very different disciplines.
Three extraordinary tutorial talks took place on the first day, focused on ‘sensing’. The first was given by Professor Pedram Mohseni from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, USA, on “High-Fidelity Sensing and Manipulation of Brain Neurochemistry.” Mohensi shared his insights on how to build real-time, high-fidelity sensing and manipulation tools for brain neurochemistry at microscopic scales. The second was given by Professor Sandro Carrara from EPFL in Switzerland. His talk was titled “System-In-Package and System-On-Chip for Remote Monitoring of Human Metabolism,” and he demonstrated the new approach of Systems-In-Package with embedded System-On-Chip that integrates sensors, remote power and/or data transmission, and CMOS IC for different metabolites detection, such as glucose. The third tutorial was on “Compressive Sensing: Theory, Implementation and Applications” by Professor Gianluca Setti from the University of Ferrara, Italy. He presented the basis, pros, and cons of different techniques, as well as examples of applying compressive sensing for sparse signal acquisition, such as EEG signals from the brain.
It is surely intriguing to use microelectronics to help sense the brain-related signals and thus to understand the brain, which is still a myth in many ways. Another important aspect is to use microelectronics to intervene/modulate the brain, for example, to treat brain diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or seizure. This importance was underscored in the keynote speeches. The first keynote was given by Professor Hoi-Jun Yoo from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, on “Wearable Healthcare Circuits and Systems.” He introduced technologies most recently developed at KAIST, such as bandage type body signal monitors, sleep monitoring systems, smart acupuncture systems, electrical impedance tomography, and mental healthcare systems. With these smart technologies, especially those enabled by the CMOS, researchers can build smart systems to care for the body, including the brain. The second keynote was on how to use electronics to modulate the brain activities to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. It was given on the third day of the conference, by Professor Luming Li from Tsinghua University of China. In his talk “Deep Brain stimulation (DBS) from Clinical to Brain Research,” Prof. Li shared their work on developing various frequency stimulation (VFS) techniques for the treatment of advanced Parkinson’s disease, alleviating certain symptoms, such as freezing of gait and dysarthria that could not be done using old techniques.
In regular technical papers, it is also clear that brain-related research has continued to gain strong interest from the BioCAS community. For example, at BioCAS2016, there are more than 10 regular research papers talking about the electroencephalograph (EEG), dealing with different aspects of the EEG signals, ranging from how to measure EEG with the lowest power possible, to the analysis of brain status using EEG, and to applications such as seizure detection and sleep stages discrimination. There was also an interesting live demo that used EEG to help detect the preference of consumers.
Brain Circuit and Systems (BrainCAS) Workshop
The first Brain Circuits and Systems Conference (BrainCAS) was held as a follow-on workshop to BioCAS in Hangzhou from 20-21 October 2016. This workshop was attended by a total of 86 participants including engineers, neuroscientists, clinicians, and industrialists.
The BrainCAS workshop was set up as a unique forum for showcasing the latest in neurotechnology and neuroscience and to identify challenges and new opportunities. The workshop aligned to a different theme for each day: neural interfacing technology (day 1) and brain machine interfaces (day 2). Featuring an outstanding and highly innovative technical program, this was aimed at facilitating engagement between the neurosciences, neural engineering, medical, IEEE, EMB, and CAS communities. Invited experts from the international neuroscience and neurotechnology communities provided their insights, posed the challenges, and presented new opportunities.
The IEEE Brain Initiative, one of the main sponsors of BrainCAS, has the mission to facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration and coordination to advance research, standardization and development of technologies in neuroscience to help improve the human condition.
A New Format
This workshop featured a creative, interactive technical program that shifted the focus from a traditional “presenter-focused” workshop to one in which all participants could interact and contribute. This non-traditional workshop format provided opportunities for BioCAS members and engineers to find collaborators, and to identify and develop new ideas together. Neuroscientists and physicians benefited from finding collaborating engineers and scientists and by deepening their knowledge on forefront technologies. Learning about neuroscience and neurotechnology in an interactive way also helped students and newcomers to the field to understand cutting edge developments in neural interfaces, BMI, and neuromodulation. At the same time, experts discussed the latest scientific results through talks and discussion.
Invited speakers to the BrainCAS 2016 workshop included: Ralph Etienne-Cummings (Johns Hopkins University), Jaimie Henderson (Stanford University), Andrew Jackson (Newcastle University), Takashi D. Yoshida Kozai (University of Pittsburgh), Wentai Liu (UCLA), Yi Lu (Chinese Academy of Sciences), Victor Pikov (GlaxoSmithKline), John Seymour (University of Michigan), Marc Slutzky (Northwestern University), and Huajin Tang (Sichuan University).
These talks were interwoven with interactive, roundtable discussions on key topics posed by our invited experts. Ralph Etienne-Cummings kicked off the workshop with his opening keynote: “iRobot: Blurring the Lines between Mind, Body and Robotics,” describing how inspiration from nature has often led to major breakthroughs and arguing that there is a generally a 30-year gap between real science and science fiction. This inspired quite a lively discussion on a range of topics from biomorphic systems and smart prosthetics to neuro-enhancement. The talks that followed outlined the vision for future electroceuticals (Victor Pikov), identified fundamental challenges of implantable probes (TK Kozai), and explored new opportunities for optogenetics (Yu Lu and John Seymour), and neuromorphic robotics (Huajin Tang).
The second day focused on Brain Machine Interfaces. Marc Slutzky’s keynote set the scene by identifying challenges, specifically: longevity, stability and invasiveness. This topic continued by looking at the latest progress in Braingate (Jaimie Henderson), and opportunities for closed loop prostheses (Andrew Jackson), also including spinal cord injury (Wentai Liu).
The discussions and brainstorming that followed resulted in a number of new opportunities—all recorded as research idea posters, that were then presented back to the wider audience. These included everything from novel electrode structures, new architectures for high channel count systems, and prosthetic applications to the “Jackson Neuroenhancement Challenge,” future neuromorphic systems “developing” intelligence, and conscious silicon.
The goal was for every participant to leave BrainCAS with: (1) new contacts; (2) new insights; and (3) new ideas! The great success of this event is in fact demonstrated by it continuity. It has already been confirmed that the 2nd BrainCAS workshop will be hosted in Cleveland, Ohio, together with IEEE BioCAS 2018.
It is the dream of many scientists, engineers and clinicians to better understand how the brain works and of course to treat the many brain-related diseases that have caused millions of people to suffer. We firmly believe that BioCAS, as a major conference in the biomedical circuits and systems, sponsored by IEEE CASS, EMBS, SSCS, Brain Initiative and other technical entities, will contribute to these important goals.