We have been contacted by the organizers of the 4th International Conference on Neuroprosthetic Devices (ICNPD) and of course we are more than happy to share all the available info about the upcoming event that will take place at the University of Freiburg, Germany, on 19-20 November 2012. The conference will cover topics including prosthetics for muscle paralysis, vision and other novel technologies.This is a rather unusual conference since there will be no regular talks. Instead, sessions composed of brief topic-relevant presentations will be followed by panel discussions about key unresolved challenges in neuroprosthetics. Each panel session will include considerable interaction with the audience, with the goal of sparking the dialog and brainstorming new ideas.
Thanks to Victor Pikov, co-chair of the event, we are able to share with you more details on the conference’s goal and history. According to Mr Pikov, the ICNPD is entirely focusing on implanted electrical stimulation devices, not including the non-invasive subdivision of the industry (e.g. magnetic brain stimulation, electric skin stimulation). The implants, requiring a hole to be made in the skull, spinal vertebra, or skin, are the most challenging type of the medical devices to develop and approve with The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its European counterpart, the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA).
The first ICNPD was held 4 years ago. Before 2008 there was no international meeting on this subject, and all professionals had to go to the US for the yearly Neural Interfaces Conference which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012. Not surprisingly, most of the currently used devices are made by US companies (except for one company in Australia and one in Germany), with the largest three being Medtronic, St. Jude, and Boston Scientific.
In the last 10 years, Europe and Asia started to catch up, and it has resulted in quite a few new devices being developed outside the US. This also explains the growing need for international collaboration in this area. With multiple emerging multinational research groups, Europe is particularly advanced in the development of:
- Electrocorticographic (ECoG) devices – a technology based on using electrodes placed directly on the surface of the brain to record electrical activity from the cerebral cortex.
- Cochlear implants or bionic ears as they are commonly referred to, led by the Med-El company – these are surgically implanted electronic devices that provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.
- Retinal implants mostly from different German companies and an older company in the UK, Finetech, selling the stimulation electrodes for the nerves and spinal cord roots to treat bladder incontinence in the spinal cord injury.
The conference is presented by the Alliance for Innovations in Neural Technology. Topics to be covered at the conference include prosthetics for muscle paralysis and vision, fabrication technologies for recording and stimulation electrodes, electrode assessment and testing, device packaging, and other novel technologies.
If you want to participate in the discussion panel, it’s not too late, just contact the conference co-chairs Thomas Stieglitz (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany) and Victor Pikov (Huntington Medical Research Institutes, Pasadena, CA, USA) by email at icnpd2012_at_neurotechzone.com.