Ongoing projects in the lab include:
1) Flexibility and constraints in learning and cognition.
What changes in the brain when you learn? How do you retain old skills while learning new ones? We are studying how existing knowledge – manifested in the patterns of neural activity that a population of cells can exhibit – affects your ability to gain new knowledge. We have developed tools that allow us to observe the current configuration of neural activity, and from it, predict which new configurations (and correspondingly, new skills) will be readily attainable. We are beginning to explore whether challenging skills can be learned more rapidly through neurofeedback “coaching”.
2) Improving brain-computer interfaces.
How come neural prosthetics aren’t yet a widespread clinical treatment for paralysis? Part of the problem is that patients are not yet able to feel things through a neural prosthesis. We are using classical control theory combined with cortical microstimulation to enable BCI users to interact smoothly with a changing environment.
3) Sensory-motor coordination.
What neural processes allow you to hit a golf ball? How come you can’t hit a hole-in-one? We are addressing old questions about sensory-motor coordination from a new vantage point: population neural activity. We study how populations of neurons change with time and practice to improve our dexterity.