The Great Collaborator
I was pleased to see your recent profile of Bob Langer (“The Problem Solver,” May/June 2015). Over the years, it has been a pleasure to collaborate with Bob on numerous projects. What I find most remarkable about Bob is his extremely positive attitude—it is infectious, and makes all of us who interact with him rise to a higher level. I always feel that I receive great benefit when I work with Bob and hope that my contributions have been worthy of the gain I have obtained. Also, Bob has the wonderful quality of being extremely loyal to the people he works with—he turns you into a lifelong collaborator and friend!
Professor of chemical engineering
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, California
New Insights for Neural Engineering
Polina Anikeeva (“A Better Way to Probe the Brain”, May/June 2015) has brought much-needed new insights and technologies to the rapidly maturing field of neural engineering (the development of devices and procedures that make it possible to interact directly with the nervous system).
Dr. Anikeeva approaches this field with unique knowledge and understanding. She is using her knowledge of materials to make and continue improving implantable devices that can simultaneously stimulate and record from the brain. These multifunctional devices may contain electronic, optical, and/or fluidic components. What’s more, she has worked to improve their biocompatibility, which will enhance their long-term performance.
She is also using her knowledge of molecular biology to develop even newer concepts, experimenting with using expressed engineered proteins to stimulate neurons in the absence of implantable devices. This approach may eliminate one of the field’s largest obstacles, the brain’s reactive responses to implanted objects.
Dr. Anikeeva has already made numerous important intellectual contributions to neural engineering. As testing and validation proceed, these concepts will turn into new devices and procedures for studying and treating brain disease and injury.
Professor of neurological surgery and bioengineering
University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Integrative Brain Research
IAP Brain Hacks
The students who took my IAP class Brain Hacks produced final projects that far outshone the “brain painting” demonstration described in “All in a Day’s Play” (May/June 2015). These cross-disciplinary teams developed systems that used EEG technology to navigate an augmented-reality environment, alert gluttons of impending food comas, and amplify into music the natural rhythms in resting brain activity.
Artistic applications of EEG biofeedback are not new; in 1965 Alvin Lucier physically coupled filtered EEG signals with acoustic instruments to examine the poetry of alpha-wave performance. In the 1970s, David Rosenboom pioneered the use of brain-wave biofeedback and selective attention training for musical synthesis control and explored the far-reaching aesthetic consequences of this new “bio-art.” However, recently developed dry-electrode EEG headsets and advances in real-time signal processing and computational neuroscience have made this technology accessible to a new generation of “brain hackers” wishing to monitor, manipulate, quantify, and broadcast their cognitive and affective states. The Brain Hacks students went beyond the “quantified self” approach in applying physiological signals to aesthetics, awareness, and well-being, all in a couple of weeks. Building a “cranially connected computer program in a fortnight,” as writer Christina Couch put it, is ambitious, but I couldn’t have imagined a better group of students to take on this challenge.
Postdoctoral fellow, MIT Media Lab Affective Computing Group
A Family Tree in Africa
I recently read Amanda Schaffer’s article “Family Ties,” about the accomplishments of Professor Evelyn Wang and the many MIT affiliations in her family (March/April 2015). You may be interested to know that another MIT family tree is budding in Africa. In fact, three of us attended the 2015 graduation ceremony at MIT on June 5.
The branches of the tree to date include Eugene Ibe, SM ’67, SM ’69, ScD ’70 (that is me); Stella Ikokwu Ibe, SM ’69, ScD ’73 (my wife); Zimako Ibe, MBA ’01 (our son); Chuka Ikokwu, MBA ’09 (nephew to my wife); and Kechy Eke, MBA ’15 (my niece).
We are all from Nigeria. I thank you guys for making sure I get every issue of MIT Technology Review even in this remote part of the country where I have retired.
Eugene Ibe, SM ’67, SM ’69, ScD ’70
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