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BrainLinks-BrainTools (2012-2018)

The University of Freiburg successfully applied for a new cluster of excellence in the second round of the German excellence initiative.

In “BrainLinks-BrainTools”, scientists in Freiburg from the Faculties of Biology, Microsystems Engineering, Computer Science, and Medicine are ready to face the challenge of connecting technical systems to the nervous system, a structure that is as complex as it is delicate.
The quality of life for many patients today could be improved through technical devices that directly interact with the nervous system. Making these interfaces as convenient as possible for its wearer requires top performances in engineering.
BrainLinks-BrainTools combines the necessary knowledge and skills for achieving this goal in a unique way. Basic research of the nervous system, the development of new materials and technical devices, and the implementation of customised robotics all come together in this unique research project.
In particular, the scientists are pursuing two technical visions that could be applied to a number of medical conditions:

• LiNC (“Limbs with Neural Control”)
Systems that are under intuitive neuronal control will enable their users to steer external devices. These could be prostheses for paralysed patients, communication aids, or systems that assist stroke patients during rehabilitation.

• SEAM (“Smart Energy-Autonomous Micronodes”)
These are independently acting implants that interface with the brain. They will detect and counteract perturbations in the brain’s activity, as they occur in conditions like Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders.
The cluster will unite the fields of biology, microsystems engineering, computer science, and medicine in a novel way. In the long term, the scientists pursue the goal of establishing the largest neurotechnological centre for research and training in Germany, making it one of the largest in Europe.
In order to house people with so many different forms of knowledge under the same roof, with the aim of fostering collaborations even further, the University of Freiburg will erect a new building at its campus at the Freiburg airfield, creating working space for more than 200 people.

In total, BrainLinks-BrainTools will be funded by the German Research Foundation with almost 30 Million EUR over the course of the next five years.

Professor Dr. Wolfram Burgard, Speaker BrainLinks-BrainTools/Faculty of Engineering



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