University of Michigan assistant professor Cindy Chestek has received an award from the McKnight Foundation for her work developing carbon microthread electrodes that could help restore limb function in those with paralysis. The project was one of three awardees selected from 66 applicants to the 2015 McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards. The award comes with a grant totaling $200,000 over two years.
The electrodes’ smaller size makes it possible to implant more of them in a patient’s brain with less damage, providing a better way to transmit signals from the brain to limbs. This could replace the function of damaged nerves and enable doctors to restore detailed limb control to those with paralysis. It’s also useful to researchers who study the physiology of the brain and brain activity.
Chestek plans to use the grant to develop devices that can record more channels of information at a lower cost. Chestek’s lab developed the electrodes by building on research done by Paras Patel, a student who is involved with the project.
The grant is funded by the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, which focuses on work seeking to advance the ability to monitor, manipulate, analyze or model brain function.
Chestek is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the U-M College of Engineering. Her research focuses on brain machine interface systems, with the goal of developing systems that enable paralyzed individuals to control prosthetic limbs, as well as their own limbs, using functional electrical stimulation and assistive exoskeletons.