Oxford Neural Interfacing Group
The Oxford Neural Interfacing Group (https://www.nds.ox.ac.uk/research/oxford-neural-interfacing) design and test new ways to connect the human nervous system to electronic devices in order to restore function or aid rehabilitation after injury. We work on peripheral nerve interfaces, brain computer interfaces (BCIs), and systems for stimulating weak or paralysed muscles. The group includes 3 senior investigators, 2 postdoctoral researchers, and 5 DPhil students, working on projects at range of phases from in silico modelling through in vitro testing to early in vivo work. Current projects within the group include:
- Development of an implantable peripheral nerve interface for control of prosthetic limbs
- Drug elution technology to provide long term suppression of the foreign body response, which currently limits the longevity of implanted interface function
- Recordings from the brain surface to obtain motor control information, and highly localised brain stimulation for sensory feedback
- Noninvasive approaches to prosthetic control using high density surface electromyography coupled to deep learning networks
- Noninvasive stimulation of the phrenic nerves for diaphragm strength preservation in ventilated patients
- Noninvasive spinal cord stimulation
We welcome applications from suitably qualified individuals wishing to study with us at DPhil or MRes level. Candidates will typically come from a neuroscience, medical, or engineering background. In addition to the high academic standards expected for study in Oxford, the technological nature of our work means that earlier study that included experience in areas such as electronics, robotics, coding/computation, or machine learning may be advantageous.
Projects we can offer for 2024 entry include:
1) Noninvasive peripheral nerve activation and blockade for improved neuromodulation. This will include computer simulation and in vitro validation of potential neural targets, with progressing to in vivo testing if time and progress allow. The group has an ongoing project in stimulation of the phrenic nerves noninvasively for diaphragm activation, which is up to the stage of prototype devices, and the project may also involve further development of this as a non-invasive platform technology.
2) Development of an implanted peripheral nerve interface. This will be in collaboration with engineering/materials groups and continue longstanding work in microchannel based interface devices. Techniques involved will be simulation based on finite element modelling, microfabrication techniques, and signal analysis.
3) Integrating EMG and motion sensor signals for advanced AI prosthetic control, with applications including to the tetraplegic hand/arm, and drop foot. A particular focus will be on ways of combining high level conscious control signals with automatic control of lower level aspects of movement.
4) Electrical stimulation of denervated muscle. All muscle stimulators in clinical use work by stimulating nerves running to muscles rather than the muscles themselves (for example stimulation of the peroneal nerve for foot drop). Stimulation of muscles that have lost their nerve supply, for example after peripheral nerve injury, is a largely unsolved problem. Approaches will include artificial reinnervation of muscle and methods of stimulating the reinnervating neurons.
5) Focused Brain stimulation for high resolution Brain Computer Interfaces. This will build on ongoing work looking at stimulation at the cortical surface as a less invasive alternative to intracortical microstimulation, using methods including computational modelling and study of human brain tissue, both after resection and in vivo during surgery.
The principal supervisors within the group are Professor James FitzGerald and Professor Brian Andrews, however we also collaborate extensively with groups in other Oxford departments and beyond, and principal investigators from these other groups may be part of the supervisory team where appropriate.