Neurobiohybrids: State-Of-the-Art, Current Trends, and Challenges

Wednesday, 2016, September 28

The roadmap work on Neurohybrids supported by CSNII is now  published in the Journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, 23 September 2016 |

Trends and Challenges in Neuroengineering: Toward “Intelligent” Neuroprostheses through Brain-“Brain Inspired Systems” Communication 

by Stefano Vassanelli (CSN II consotrium member) and Mufti Mahmud. NeuroChip Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Padova, Padova, Italy

Future technologies aiming at restoring and enhancing organs function will intimately rely on near-physiological and energy-efficient communication between living and artificial biomimetic systems. Interfacing brain-inspired devices with the real brain is at the forefront of such emerging field, with the term “neurobiohybrids” indicating all those systems where such interaction is established. We argue that achieving a “high-level” communication and functional synergy between natural and artificial neuronal networks in vivo, will allow the development of a heterogeneous world of neurobiohybrids, which will include “living robots” but will also embrace “intelligent” neuroprostheses for augmentation of brain function. The societal and economical impact of intelligent neuroprostheses is likely to be potentially strong, as they will offer novel therapeutic perspectives for a number of diseases, and going beyond classical pharmaceutical schemes. However, they will unavoidably raise fundamental ethical questions on the intermingling between man and machine and more specifically, on how deeply it should be allowed that brain processing is affected by implanted “intelligent” artificial systems. Following this perspective, we provide the reader with insights on ongoing developments and trends in the field of neurobiohybrids. We address the topic also from a “community building” perspective, showing through a quantitative bibliographic analysis, how scientists working on the engineering of brain-inspired devices and brain-machine interfaces are increasing their interactions. We foresee that such trend preludes to a formidable technological and scientific revolution in brain-machine communication and to the opening of new avenues for restoring or even augmenting brain function for therapeutic purposes.