Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering
Director, Center for Neuromorphic Systems Engineering
California Institute of Technology
This talk will present two ongoing efforts to use robotic and control technology to aid humans suffering from major paralysis. The first part of the talk will summarize our efforts to develop new strategies for recovering locomotion after severe spinal cord injuries (SCIs). First we will show that a combination of drug therapy and robotically guided exercise therapy can provide significant improvements in the stepping ability of animal models with complete SCI. Next we will describe a novel, flexible high density spinal cord stimulating electrode array. Experiments with these micro-fabricated devices in animal models demonstrate that they can induce graded motor responses and step-like motions. Finally, we will present recent results involving the integrated use of drug therapy, robotic exercise therapy, and epidural stimulation to recover highly functional stepping in animal models, as well as our first results on epidural stimulation in a paralyzed human subjects.
The second part of the talk will focus on “neural prosthetics.” A "neural prostheses" is a brain-machine interface that enables a human, via the use of surgically implanted electrode array and associated computer decoding algorithms, to control external electromechanical devices by pure thought alone. In this manner, some useful functions that have been lost through disease or accident can be partially restored. We will focus on a novel miniature robotic brain interface that autonomously repositions the electrodes within cortical tissue so as to find and then maintain optimal recording sites. Demonstrations of the device in macaque cortex and our ongoing efforts to produce miniaturized implantable versions of these interfaces will be reviewed.
Professor Burdick's research group focuses primarily on robotics, mechanical systems, and kinematics. Robots are computer controlled devices. Consequently, much of Prof. Burdick's work focuses on developing and analyzing computer algorithms which control and coordinate complex robotic motion. In addition, prototype robots are constructed to demonstrate and validate current theories. The ultimate goal of much of the group's work is to enable highly agile, mobile, and autonomous robotic systems which can operate in largely a priori unknown environments. Applications which motivate work in this group include space exploration, minimally invasive medicine, and industrial automation.
Current research interests include analysis and control of biomimetic robotic locomotion; sensor-based robotic motion planning; the mechanics and control of grasping and fixturing; development of robots for minimally invasive medicine; applied nonlinear control, and hyper-redundant (snake-like) mechanisms.