Leigh Hochberg, M.D., Ph.D., FAAN, FANA, director of the VA Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology (CfNN), has received the 2022 VA Paul B. Magnuson Award for his work to improve the lives of Veterans and others who experience stroke, ALS, spinal cord injury and neurological disease. The Magnuson Award recognizes outstanding achievement in VA rehabilitation research.

Hochberg and his colleagues at CfNN are developing cutting-edge technologies to assist Veterans with paralysis to navigate their environments and communicate with others. Hochberg’s research program combines engineering, neuroscience, and clinical medicine to design new technologies to help people with neurological injury or disease live a fuller life. (CAUTION: Investigational Device. Limited by federal law to investigational use.)

Dr. Leigh Hochberg

Dr. Leigh Hochberg

Tests brain-computer interfaces

Hochberg is a researcher at the Providence VA Medical Center in Rhode Island, with more than 17 years’ expertise. He is director of the BrainGate clinical trials – conducted by leading laboratories in neuroscience and neuroengineering – which are focused on developing and testing intracortical brain-computer interfaces (BCI).

In 2006, Hochberg published groundbreaking results from the first two participants in the BrainGate clinical trial. He and his colleagues demonstrated that people with cervical spinal cord injury could control a computer cursor or robotic arm using their brain activity alone. Investigators implanted electrodes in participants’ motor cortex to transmit neural impulses to a computer, allowing the participants to control external devices just by thinking about the movement of their own hand.

“This breakthrough in human neuroscience set the stage for intracortical BCI research and highlighted the potential to help people with impairments of communication and mobility,” notes Dr. Krishna Shenoy, director of the Neural Prosthetic Systems Lab at Stanford University.

*Listen to Dr. Hochberg and a colleague explain how the investigational BrainGate system works.

A typing speed of 90 characters per minute

In 2021, the BrainGate team at Stanford and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute demonstrated an intracortical BCI that decoded brain activity and displayed the intended handwriting of a study participant who was unable to use his hands. The participant achieved a typing speed of 90 characters per minute, with 94% accuracy. The study, published in “Nature,” was recognized internationally as a breakthrough in the speed and flexibility made possible through BCI-enabled communication.

*Watch a video demonstrating BCI-enabled handwriting by a BrainGate study participant.

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By Erica Sprey is a writer-editor in VA Research Communications

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Published on Mar. 9, 2022

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