University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Science and Engineering > Department of Biomedical Engineering

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Welcome to the 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 current stimulation. The initial focus of my lab is to develop and improve invasive and noninvasive neurostimulation approaches for treating hearing disorders, including deafness, tinnitus and hyperacusis.

We are currently working on six 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. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Development of a new type of laser-based hearing aid using optoacoustic principles.

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 the auditory system codes for different sound features as well as the effects of electrical activation of multiple auditory and non-auditory pathways on sound coding and perception. 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 linking these results to those obtained in animals, we then obtain a better understanding of sound processing within the human brain that can guide the development of the next generation of neural technologies for improving hearing disorders.

Although the initial focus of the lab is to develop improved neural devices for hearing applications, we will expand our techniques and technologies to address other clinical applications, especially those investigated by leading research groups at University of Minnesota (e.g., pain, schizophrenia, motor control, epilepsy).

SONIC Lab Members

Research Highlights

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