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Current challenges and new avenues in neural interfacing: from nanomaterials and microfabrication state-of-the-art, to advanced control-theoretical and signal-processing principles

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The human brain remains rather poorly understood and, in terms of its dysfunctions, it represents a formidable societal challenge for science and technology.

Thanks to visionary research programmes support, both European and American agencies have contributed to build over the ...

The human brain remains rather poorly understood and, in terms of its dysfunctions, it represents a formidable societal challenge for science and technology.

Thanks to visionary research programmes support, both European and American agencies have contributed to build over the last decade a significant community of scientists around the concept of interfacing neurons and networks with artificial devices and biomaterials, relevant for human health applications as well as for potentially extracting the principles of novel brain-inspired, information and communication technologies.

Although earlier neuroscience evidences proposed that the unique adaptability of the nervous system could have eased the coupling of artificial devices to the brain, progresses in neuroprosthetics and invasive ICT brain interfacing have been slow. Bidirectional functional interfacing has still major issues to be solved, especially in terms of dynamical stability and consistency of its operation through time.

We argue that this is in part due to our unavoidably primitive physical interfacing technologies, bridging nerve tissue and artificial devices with poor spatial resolution and bandwidth, and associated foreign body rejection reactions. In addition, existing devices currently focus on spatial and temporal domains of operation rather independently, and almost entirely rely on open-loop paradigms, grounded on routine experimental stimulus-response protocols of basic neuroscience research. We also think that beyond the “hardware” component, a new approach involving control-theoretical concepts and advanced signal-processing techniques is pivotal. Only merging these two domains, a completely novel generation of more effective neuroprosthetic devices will emerge, integrating into the brain by novel principles of operation.

We encourage scientists who tackle current challenges of neural interfacing, network breaking and re-wiring, and who share our enthusiasm for the future opportunities offered by neurotechnology, in silico neurobiology, and advanced neural signal processing, to submit their contributions to this research topic. A variety of article types are welcome: commentaries, original research, reviews, hypothesis and theory, and opinions.

We are particularly interested in reports focusing across all levels of the organisation of the nervous system, from cells to systems, and spanning a wide range of neurotechnologies, including nanomaterials and nanoparticles for creating bidirectional chemical, electrical, and structural interfaces, microfabrication and novel electronics and microfluidics, as well as advanced routes in quantitative mathematical modelling of neuron-device interfaces, local field and spike trains interpretation and processing.


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