Advisory Board

Dr. Jonathan R. Wolpaw

The Department of Health article State Health Department’s Brain Computer Interface Technology to be Featured This Sunday on “60 Minutes” said

New York State Department of Health scientist Jonathan R. Wolpaw, M.D., will appear this Sunday on “60 Minutes” to demonstrate the progress of Brain Computer Interface (BCI) technology. The demonstration will show how severely paralyzed individuals can use their brain signals to send commands to a computer, allowing them to communicate independently.
Researchers at the state Department of Health, the Wadsworth Center and Helen Hayes Hospital have developed and successfully tested the BCI technology. Dr. Wolpaw, chief of the Laboratory of Neural Injury and Repair at the Wadsworth Center in Albany, has been a central figure in the field of BCI research and technology since its beginning in the late 1980s.
“People with and without disabilities use computers to communicate and control their environments,” Dr. Wolpaw said. “Research has shown that people who have lost muscle control due to disease, neuromuscular disorders, or injury can use BCI systems by changing their brain activity so that a computer can detect their intent and translate this into device control.”

Jonathan R. Wolpaw, M.D. is Chief, Laboratory of Nervous System Disorders, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health and State University of New York. He is also Professor, School of Public Health, Biomedical Sciences.
The primary interest of Jon’s laboratory is in development and use of a new model for defining the substrates of vertebrate learning. His studies have demonstrated operant conditioning of the simplest behavior of the vertebrate CNS, the H-reflex, which is the electrical analog of the spinal stretch reflex. The responsible plasticity is in the spinal cord, so that H-reflex conditioning is a good model for studying the processes underlying a learned change in behavior. In addition, it is the basis for a new therapeutic approach to spasticity and other forms of abnormal reflex function. His present goals are to define the spinal cord plasticity associated with H-reflex conditioning both physiologically and anatomically, and to determine how supraspinal control produces this plasticity.
In addition, he is developing brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to restore communication and control to people who are severely paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), strokes, or other devastating neuromuscular disorders. People learn to use their brain waves recorded from the scalp to select letters or icons on a computer screen or to move a cursor. He has begun to take his BCI system out of the lab and into the homes of people with severe disabilities. He is testing its capacity to restore communication and control to them in their daily lives.
Jon coauthored Brain-computer interfaces for communication and control, Control of a two-dimensional movement signal by a noninvasive brain-computer interface in humans, Activity-dependent spinal cord plasticity in health and disease, A brain-computer interface using electrocorticographic signals in humans, BCI2000: A General-Purpose Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) System, Brain-Computer Communication: Unlocking the Locked In, EEG-based communication: presence of an error potential, and Probable Corticospinal Tract Control of Spinal Cord Plasticity in the Rat.
Jon earned his M.D. at Case Western Reserve University in 1970. He did his postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Watch Brain-Computer Interfaces for Communication and Control.