Building Next-Generation Brain/Neural-Machine Interfaces For Restoration of Brain Functions

The NGBMI project realizes and tests Next-Generation Brain/Neural Machine Interfaces fusing real-time analysis of brain states and closed loop transcranial electric stimulation (TES) in order to effectively modulate brain functions.

It is realized by the clinical neurotechnology lab under supervision of Prof. Dr. Surjo Soekadar at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Closed-Loop Brain Stimulation
In order to advance the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders, our lab develops methods for noninvasive neuromodulation of electromagnetic brain oscillations. On the one hand, we build upon existing methods such as transcranial electric (tES) or magnetic (TMS) stimulation, as well as sensory stimulation protocols. On the other hand, we develop novel stimulator technology to refine the targeting of specific brain areas using multiple interfering electromagnetic fields. Research has revealed that the effects of noninvasive neuromodulation depend crucially on the ongoing brain state. For this reason, we employ real-time computer systems that obtain ongoing brain activity to ensure that the timing of our stimuli respect these vital windows of opportunity. Our methods are then employed to investigate basic mechanisms of perception (e.g. binocular rivalry) and cognition (e.g. working memory), with an eye towards clinical translations in the context of pathological brain oscillations in psychiatry and neurology.
Real-Time Modeling and Classification of Brain States
To characterize the state of the brain during neuromodulation, we record electromagneticoscillations via electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG). We then apply established approaches such as linear classifiers and connectivity measures in combination with source reconstruction methods, but also develop innovative mathematical approaches allowing for the quantification of other aspects of brain physiology, such as its dynamic character. This includes a range of methods such as measure of brain (transfer) entropy and the phase flows (traveling waves) between brain areas. We also work on specialized real-time hardware capable of processing incoming EEG data in under 5 milliseconds and triggering TMS pulses according to the ongoing brain state.
Neural Control of Exoskeletons
For the rehabilitation of neuronal motor function after damage, as in the case of stroke or spinal cord injury, we develop brain-computer interfaces (BCI) that control assistive devices such as exoskeletons. Using EEG and MEG, we read out brain signals from the damaged region in the sensorimotor cortex while patients attempt or imagine movement with the affected hand. This signal is translated in a control signal for a robotic arm, restoring daily living functions while allowing the damaged connections to heal.
Optically Pumped Magnetometers
To develop next-generation brain-computer interfaces, we are establishing ourselves at the forefront of noninvasive sensor technology for the measurement of the brain’s magnetic field. Optically pumped magnetometers (OPM) allow the recording of MEG signals at room temperature, without liquid helium and the costs associated with maintaining large, complex, and expensive equipment. Furthermore, this technology is projected to surpass conventional MEG sensors in terms of resolution and signal quality within the next few years, simultaneously allowing measurements while the participant ismobile. We are therefore developing novel BCI applications with this technology.

Liew SL, Zavaliangos-Petropulu A, Jahanshad N, Lang CE, Hayward KS, Lohse KR, Juliano JM, Assogna F, Baugh LA, Bhattacharya AK, Bigjahan B, Borich MR, Boyd LA, Brodtmann A, Buetefisch CM, Byblow WD, Cassidy JM, Conforto AB, Craddock RC, Dimyan MA, Dula AN, Ermer E, Etherton MR, Fercho KA, Gregory CM, Hadidchi S, Holguin JA, Hwang DH, Jung S, Kautz SA, Khlif MS, Khoshab N, Kim B, Kim H, Kuceyeski A, Lotze M, MacIntosh BJ, Margetis JL, Mohamed FB, Piras F, Ramos-Murguialday A, Richard G, Roberts P, Robertson AD, Rondina JM, Rost NS, Sanossian N, Schweighofer N, Seo NJ, Shiroishi MS, Soekadar SR, Spalletta G, Stinear CM, Suri A, Tang WKW, Thielman GT, Vecchio D, Villringer A, Ward NS, Werden E, Westlye LT, Winstein C, Wittenberg GF, Wong KA, Yu C, Cramer SC, Thompson PM. The ENIGMA Stroke Recovery Working Group: Big data neuroimaging to study brain-behavior relationships after stroke. Hum Brain Mapp 2020 (in press) DOI: 101002/hbm25015

Haslacher D, Nasr K, Robinson SE, Braun C, Soekadar SR.Stimulation Artifact Source Separation (SASS) for assessing electric brain oscillations during transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS). NeuroImage 2020 (in press) DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.03.023192

Cavallo A, Roth V, Haslacher D, Nann N, Soekadar SR. Minimizing Biosignal Recording Sites for Noninvasive Hybrid Brain/Neural Control. IEEE Systems Journal 2020 (in press) DOI:10.1109/JSYST.2020.3021485


Zrenner B, Zrenner C, Gordon PC, Belardinelli P, McDermott EJ, Soekadar SR, Fallgatter AJ, Ziemann U, Müller-Dahlhaus F. Brain oscillation-synchronized stimulation of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in depression using real-time EEG-triggered TMS. Brain Stimul. 2020;13:197-205. DOI: 10.1016/j.brs.2019.10.007.

Morgalla MH, de Barros Filho MF, Chander BS, Soekadar SR, Tatagiba M, Lepski G. Neurophysiological Effects of Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation (DRGS) in Pain Processing at the Cortical Level. Neuromodulation. 2019;22:36-43. DOI: 10.1111/ner.12900

Click here to see earlier publications

Cervera MA, Soekadar SR, Ushiba J, Millán JdM, Liu M, Birbaumer N, Garipelli G Brain‐computer interfaces for post‐stroke motor rehabilitation: a meta‐analysis. Annals of of Translational and Clinical Neurology, 2018;5:651-663. DOI: 10.1002/acn3.544

Citizens dialogue
Tyler Ard und Team, USCLONI

Einstein in the dome - Lecture and discussion with Dr. Soekadar

Video documentation of the Einstein Foundation Berlin

Clinical neurotechnology lab team
Prof. Dr. Surjo Soekadar - Group leader

Prof. Dr. Surjo Soekadar
Einstein Professor of Clinical Neurotechnology, Head of Laboratory

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Surjo R. Soekadar is Einstein Professor of Clinical Neurotechnology at the Charité –University Medicine Berlin. After studying medicine in Mainz, Heidelberg and Baltimore, he completed his residency in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University of Tübingen, Germany. From 2008-2011 he was visiting research fellow at the National Institute ofNeurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in Bethesda, USA. In 2017, he received the venia legendiat the University of Tübingen and, in 2018, he was appointed Germany's first professor of clinical neurotechnology at the Charité in Berlin. For his scientific work, which is also funded by the European Research Council (ERC), Surjo Soekadar has received numerous awards including the International BCI Research Award and the BIOMAG and NARSAD Young Investigator Awards.
Marius Nann - Clinical neurotechnology lab

Marius Nann, MSc
Doctoral Student

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Marius Nann is a research associate and doctoral student at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the University of Tübingen, and has been working in the ‘Clinical Neurotechnology Laboratory’ headed by Professor Soekadar since 2015. From 2008-2012, he first studied Medical Technology at Ulm University of Applied Sciences and continued his studies from 2012-2015 at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen/Nuremberg. In 2014, he completed his Master’s thesis at the University of Calgary. During his studies, Marius Nann worked for Otto-Bock Healthcare GmbH in Duderstadt and adidas AG in Herzogenaurach. As Ph.D. candidate, his research interests include the development and clinical use of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to reliably control wearable robotics in daily life environments for patients with neurological disorders.
David Haslacher - Clinical neurotechnology lab

David Haslacher, MSc
Doctoral Student

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David Haslacher is currently working towards a doctoral degree in medical neuroscience at the Charité in Berlin, where he has been employed as a research associate in the Clinical Neurotechnology group headed by Prof. Soekadar since 2018. From 2016 to 2018 he was employed in the Applied Neurotechnology group at the University Clinic Tübingen. During this time, he completed a master’s degree in computational neuroscience at the University of Tübingen. From 2013 to 2015, he completed a master’s degree in artificial intelligence at the University of Utrecht. From 2009 to 2012, he completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Munich. During this time, he worked as a software developer in various industries including aerospace engineering (Silver Atena GmbH), machine tools (Grob-Werke GmbH), pharmaceuticals (Siemens Healthcare GmbH), and automotive (Bosch GmbH). His research interests are centered on the development of noninvasive closed-loop electromagnetic and sensory brain stimulation protocols for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.
Khaled Nasr - Clinical neurotechnology lab

Kahled Nasr, MSc
Doctoral Student

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I started my studies with a bachelor in mechatronics engineering because I was always interested in robotics and artificial intelligence. My interests gradually shifted towards the brain and so I did my master's in computational neuroscience in Tübingen. Now I've settled on working at the intersection of technology and neuroscience. My goal is to develop reliable and specific methods for the noninvasive interaction with human brain activity, and that constitutes the bulk of my work as a doctoral student at the clinical neurotechnology lab. My main project is about developing a novel method for transcranial magnetic stimulation that combines the magnetic fields from multiple coils to obtain improved spatial resolution. I'm also interested in other noninvasive technologies such as optically-pumped magnetometers and generally in closed-loop brain stimulation methods.
Anne Wrana - Clinical neurotechnology lab

Anne Wrana

Annalsia Collucci - Clinical neurotechnology lab

Annalisa Colucci, MSc
Doctoral Student

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Ms. Annalisa Colucci graduated from the BSc program in Psychological Sciences and Techniques at the University of Turin (Italy) in 2016 and graduated from the MSc degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Padua (Italy) in 2018. In 2019 Ms. Colucci joined the Clinical Neurotechnology Lab at the Charité –University Medicine Berlin as research assistant, where she is now pursuing a PhD in “Experimental Medicine”. She has been involved in the development and testing of a context-aware, brain-controlled hand exoskeleton for quadriplegic and stroke patients and on the development of a novel entropy-driven Brain Computer Interface. Her current work focuses on combining BCI and closed-loop brain electrical stimulation to foster neuroplasticity and healing processes for damaged neural substrates of sensorimotor functions.
Mareike Vermehren - Clinical neurotechnology lab

Mareike Vermehren, MSc
Doctoral Student

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After completing my studies of Cognitive Science and Neural and Behavioural Science in Tübingen, I joined the team in Berlin, where I am currently working on the combination of BCI technology and tACS for rehabilitation of motor function in stroke patients. My research interests lie in neurorehabilitation, brain-computer interfaces and bio-signal processing.
Orestis Rakitzis - Clinical neurotechnology lab

Orestis Rakitzis, MSc
Research Associate

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I studied Medicine at the A.U.Th (GR) from 2009 to 2015. After a period of working in hospital clinics, I decided to follow my passion for brain research and moved to Berlin for a two-year M.Sc. in Medical Neurosciences at the Charite Universitätsmedizin Berlin. My scientific interests include NIBS, Psychiatry and Decision making.
Joel Aftreth - Clinical neurotechnology lab

Joel Aftreth, BSc
Research Associate

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Joel is finishing his masters in Computational Neuroscience and is currently working on a deep learning based brain computer interface using convolutional neural networks, and is also exploring how to more precisely stimulate the brain with temporal interference electrical stimulation. He is an amazing dancer as well, like really, wow.
Alessia Cavallo - Clinical neurotechnology lab

Alessia Cavallo, BSc
Research Associate

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Alessia Cavallo studied Cognitive Science in Tübingen and is currently a master student in Computational Neuroscience at the BCCN Berlin. Since she joined the "Clinical Neurotechnology" lab she has been working on the enhancement of Brain-Computer-Interfaces and Closed-Loop electrical stimulation. Also, she created this nice website.
Jan Zerfowski - Clinical neurotechnology lab

Jan Zerfowski, BSc
Research Associate

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Jan studied Computer Science and Cognitive Science in Münster, Osnabrück and Nijmegen. He is currently working on his Master's thesis, researching the feasibility of exoskeleton control with Optically Pumped Magnetometers.
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Neurowissenschaftliches Forschungszentrum (NWFZ)
Campus Charité Mitte
Hufelandweg 14
10117 Berlin
Find out more about our laboratory on our website
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 759370. This website reflects only the authors' view and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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Clinical Neurotechnology Lab
Campus Charité Mitte
Hufelandweg 14
10117 Berlin
Alessia Cavallo