2020 BCI Award given to a project led by G. Courtine & J. Bloch
Researchers at the Brain Mind Institute, Center for Neuroprosthetics and NeuroRestore won the second prize at the Annual BCI Award 2020for the world’s most outstanding and innovative research in the field Brain-Computer Interfaces.
This year, top-level research projects were submitted from all over the world. Twelve projects were nominated before three laureates were announced at the BCI Award Ceremony. Selected projects must include a novel application for Brain-Computer Interfaces, new methodological approaches, or new benefits for Brain-Computer Interface users. The project of our BMI, CNP and .NR researchers titled “A Brain–Spine Interface Complements Deep-Brain Stimulation to Both Alleviate gait and Balance Deficits and Increase Alertness in a Primate Model of Parkinson’s Disease” won the second prize.
In their earlier work, the team of Prof. Grégoire Courtine and Prof. Jocelyne Bloch has developed a brain–spine interface that restored walking to people with paraplegia after paralyzing spinal cord injury. At its later stages, Parkinson’s disease also disrupts the communication between the brain and spinal cord. As a result, the Parkinson’s disease patients experience deficits in their gait and balance. Cure or effective palliative treatment for these patients is still missing. In this study, the researchers redesigned the brain-spine interface for the application in Parkinson’s disease. They demonstrated that this neuroprosthesis substantially alleviated Parkinsonian gait and balance deficits in a non-human primate model of the disease. “More than anything, this prize is a recognition of the teamwork between thirty researchers from four Swiss Universities and international partners from five other countries. It demonstrates the high quality of largely publicly supported and funded research aimed at helping the society at large. Support of SNSF and EU funding programs played a critical role in our success.” said Dr. Tomislav Milekovic, the lead author of the study. Profs. Courtine and Bloch are now moving forward with first clinical trials of a Parkinson’s disease therapy based on this neuroprosthesis, which is scheduled to start in 2021.