Over the past decades, we have learned a great deal about how the brain performs cognitive tasks, and how brain circuits and areas mechanistically work. Yet, we remain very far from understanding how the brain may support the human mind and behaviour in naturalistic settings. In particular, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of the biological underpinnings of consciousness, emotions, and social interactions. It is now becoming clear that a major methodological overhaul is needed.
The Dutch Brain Interface Initiative (DBI2) aims to advance our understanding of brain function and brain environment interactions by leveraging the development of a new generation of effective and minimally disruptive brain-machine interfaces.
Neuroscientific applications of DBI2
DBI2 will integrate cutting-edge algorithmic and technological advances geared toward the following applications:
- Understanding the common principles of global brain dynamics and feedback interactions between brain areas subserving cognition.
- Devising effective, ecologically valid, minimally-invasive techniques to influence brain dynamics that will foster fruitful avenues for therapy and cognitive enhancement in patients.
- Understanding neural underpinnings of complex interactions between animals and their environments, and between animals under increasingly naturalistic conditions
Integrated Brain-machine platform to manipulate brain activities
We will tackle our goals by developing and leveraging an integrated platform for manipulating brain activity based on both its neural context and environmental context. Our program will be the first to combine closed-loop stimulation design and naturalistic behaviour, two emerging trends in neuroscience research. The combination will provide an unprecedented window into how information is encoded and processed in the brain.
We will build the naturalistic-behaviour (Nat-B) lab, a novel unique instrumented environment where characterisation of complex (social) behaviour can be associated with brain monitoring and stimulation, towards closing the brain-environment loop and understanding the social brain.
Key to unlocking the opportunities to tackle brain disorders
DBI2 is a fundamental research program, but the principles, technological advances, and practices that we aim to develop will facilitate broad access to user-friendly, and ecologically-plausible brain interfaces and prostheses. Such technologies will for instance enable partial restoration of movement in paralysed patients, or partial gain of functional vision in the blind. Our contributions to the understanding of neural function will generate new insights on brain disorders and on topics of the utmost societal relevance, such as the collective dimensions of mood, emotion, and compulsions, which have a major impact on individual lives and society as a whole.