Welcome to the SONIC Lab



 Hubert H. Lim, Ph.D.                                                                                                          Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering                                                            Director of SONIC Lab

The goal of the lab is to push the development and translation of brain-machine interfaces from scientific concept into clinical application with close collaboration with clinicians and industry. Brain-machine interfaces span a broad array of applications and consist of either direct connection of a device to neurons within the brain or neural communication through noninvasive techniques, such as EEG recordings and transcranial magnetic or ultrasound stimulation. The initial focus of my lab is to develop and improve invasive and noninvasive neurostimulation approaches for treating hearing disorders and pain.

We are currently working on eight general areas of research:

  1. The anatomical and functional organization of the ascending and descending auditory pathways involved with sound processing, attention and plasticity.
  2. Deep brain stimulation technologies and stimulation strategies (open- and closed-loop algorithms) to treat deafness, tinnitus or hyperacusis.
  3. Cortical stimulation techniques (direct stimulation or transcranial magnetic stimulation) to treat tinnitus or hyperacusis.
  4. Noninvasive ultrasound stimulation technologies and paradigms to activate the brain, peripheral nerves, muscles, and organs.
  5. A new noninvasive neuromodulation approach to treat brain disorders that we call Multimodal Synchronization Therapy (mSync), which combines activation of auditory, somatosensory, visual, motor, limbic, cognitive and other multimodal pathways to modulate different parts of the brain based on timing of convergence and plasticity principles.
  6. We are developing flexible and wearable technologies to implement noninvasive neuromodulation, such as mSync, in which the patients can take home the device and fit their own parameters in a comfortable environment. The vision for these wearable sensors and actuators is to enable real-time modulation and monitoring of physiological properties of the body and brain towards achieving a healthy state.
  7. Development of a new type of laser-based hearing aid using optoacoustic principles.
  8. Incorporation of associational plasticity and stress relaxation techniques into traditional neuromodulation approaches to help strengthen and shape the therapeutic effects.

The lab employs various experimental and engineering techniques in animals and humans to understand the brain and how to successfully implement a neural device. This includes acute and chronic implantation of electrode arrays into the animal brain to investigate how neurons codes for different sound features as well as the effects of electrical or ultrasound activation of multiple auditory and non-auditory pathways on neural coding, perception, and behavior. Various electrophysiological and modeling techniques are also used to investigate the functional and plasticity circuitry of the auditory system, which is important for understanding how to improve and optimize stimulation strategies for treating hearing disorders. By performing imaging and psychophysical studies in humans in response to various types of stimulation and interventions, and linking these results to those obtained in animals, we then obtain a better understanding of neural processing within the human brain that can guide the development of the next generation of neural technologies for improving hearing disorders.

Although the main focus of the lab is to develop improved neural devices for hearing applications, we are expanding our techniques and technologies to address other clinical applications, including pain and stress/anxiety.