Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Maryam Shanechi

, 33

Pioneer

Kay Tye

Using control theory to build better interfaces to the brain.

“I was born in Iran. My family immigrated to Canada when I was 16. My parents wanted a better education for me, my brother, and sister. I started out working on information theory, coding theory, and wireless communication. But I wanted to more directly impact people in my research. When I was looking for a PhD topic, I came across neuroscience, and I realized that the same principle could be used to treat brain disorders. 

“So I moved from decoding wireless signals to decoding brain signals. I develop brain-machine interfaces that record the activity of neurons while someone plans a movement. This could one day allow disabled patients to move just by thinking about it. 

“My work takes a lot of insight from control theory. Say you reach for a glass of wateryour brain wants that to happen in a certain time frame, and it’s getting visual feedback, and you can adjust the speed. The brain acts as a ‘feedback controller,’ and I have built models for how that works. I also work on brain-machine interfaces for anesthesia. We decode the level of brain activity and adjust the anesthetic accordingly.

“I started as a professor at Cornell University and moved to the University of Southern California in July. As part of the Obama BRAIN initiative, I’m involved in a project to revolutionize treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders, such as PTSD and depression. We will create a brain-machine interface to decode the neuropsychiatric state of the brain, and decide on a set of electrical stimulation patterns to alleviate the symptoms in real time. This would be an automatic controllera closed-loop system. And I will build that. 

“We know nothing about the signatures of neuropsychiatric disorders in the brain. We need to discover those. I am really excited, because there is so much we don’t know.” 

—as told to Antonio Regalado

Watch this Innovator at EmTech 2014
Meet the Innovators Under 35

Credit: Portrait by David Lauridsen

Tagged: Biomedicine, EmTech2014

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me