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What is Brain Computer Interface?

The Big Hero 6, a film winning a 2015 Oscar for Best Animated Feature, shows a lot of prospective technology and creations. Apart from the adorable healthcare-providing robot Baymax, microbots, the creation from the main character, also makes audience thrilled. Such tiny robots can be controlled by brain signals and link together in any arrangement imaginable. They have invincible power in the film and become the villain’s secrete weapon.

Similar brain-controlled techniques also appear in many Hollywood films like Avatar and Pacific Rim.

Such system is called brain-computer interface, which is a direct communication pathway between human brain and external devices.

Brain computer interfaces (BCI) – also called mind-machine interface, direct neural interface, or brain–machine interface – seek to directly communicate with human nervous system to monitor and stimulate neural circuits as well as diagnose and treat intrinsic neurological dysfunction.

Research and development in BCI focuses primarily on neuroprosthetics applications that aim at restoring damaged hearing, sight and movement, ability to communicate, and even cognitive function.

Deep brain stimulation is a significant advance in this field that is especially effective in treating movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease with high frequency stimulation of neural tissue to suppress tremors.

Invasive BCI, implanted directly into the grey matter of the brain, research has targeted repairing damaged sight and providing new functionality for people with paralysis. BCIs focusing on motor neuroprosthetics aim to either restore movement in individuals with paralysis or provide devices to assist them, such as interfaces with computers or robot arms.

In 2015, NeuroTechX was created with the mission of building an international network for neurotechnology. They bring hackers, researchers and enthusiasts all together in many different cities around the world.

What is Neuroscience?

Neuroscience (or neurobiology) is the scientific study of the nervous system. It is a multidisciplinary branch of biology, that deals with the anatomy, biochemistry, molecular biology, and physiology of neurons and neural circuits. It also draws upon other fields, with the most obvious being pharmacology, psychology, and medicine.

The scope of neuroscience has broadened over time to include different approaches used to study the molecular, cellular, developmental, structural, functional, evolutionary, computational, psychosocial and medical aspects of the nervous system. The techniques used by neuroscientists have also expanded enormously, from molecular and cellular studies of individual neurons to imaging of sensory and motor tasks in the brain.

What is Neuroenginering?

Neuroengineering uses engineering techniques to understand, repair, replace, enhance, or otherwise exploit the properties of neural systems. This field draws on the fields of computational neuroscience, experimental neuroscience, clinical neurology, electrical engineering and signal processing of living neural tissue, and encompasses elements from robotics, cybernetics, computer engineering, neural tissue engineering, materials science, and nanotechnology.

The fundamentals behind neuroengineering involve the relationship of neurons, neural networks, and nervous system functions to quantifiable models to aid the development of devices that could interpret and control signals and produce purposeful responses.

Much current research is focused on understanding the coding and processing of information in the sensory and motor systems, quantifying how this processing is altered in the pathological state, and how it can be manipulated through interactions with artificial devices including brain-computer interfaces and neuroprosthetics.

To understand properties of neural system activity, engineers use signal processing techniques and computational modeling. To process these signals, neural engineers must translate the voltages across neural membranes into corresponding code, a process known as neural coding. Decoding of these signals in the realm of neuroscience is the process by which neurons understand the voltages that have been transmitted to them. Transformations involve the mechanisms that signals of a certain form get interpreted and then translated into another form. Engineers look to mathematically model these transformations.

What are the top schools to pursue MS in Neuroscience?

MS in Neuroscience (or Neuroengineering or Brain Computer Interface) is a very interdisciplinary subject and is difficult to classify under a particular department.

So, you may find it difficult to decide whether you should apply for your MS to Department of Biomedical engineering, Department of Computer Engineering or Department of Electrical Engineering.

A better approach is to find a professor who is working in your area of interest at your target schools. They may guide you about your suitability to the program and potential projects in relevant laboratories. You would also get a sense of available funding and admittance rates, which would be important factors for your admission.

Here are some of the schools that you can consider for pursuing your MS in Neurocience. While preparing this list, we have included some dream universities, some reach and some safe universities. So that you can work on preparing a balanced shortlist that would maximize your chances of admission to a good school.

Drexel University

Program – MS in Neuroscience – Neuroengineering

The Graduate Program in Neuroscience (NEUS) at Drexel University College of Medicine embraces the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience. By incorporating expertise across departments and areas of research, the program offers a broad exposure to cellular, molecular, behavioral, developmental and systems neuroscience, with a strong emphasis on disease, injury and therapeutics. Students engage in rigorous research training using multidisciplinary approaches and cutting-edge technology. Their educational experience is not limited to the bench – they benefit from extensive interactions with the faculty, participation in scientific meetings and training in the panoply of skills (writing, teaching, formulation of hypotheses, experimental design) required for independence and success in a variety of career possibilities.

Students in the program can earn an MS or PhD degree, leading to careers in academic research, teaching, pharmaceutical research, industry, government, academic administration, public policy and beyond.

The unique strengths of the Drexel neuroscience research groups are the significant expertise in basic neurosciences, computational modeling of pattern generator and reflex systems, development of spinal motor prostheses, development of cortical motor/sensory prostheses, brain machine interfaces (BMIs) and neurorobotics. Components of this program combine novel neuroprosthetic techniques for intraspinal, limbic and cortical prostheses, with therapeutic approaches to brain and spinal cord injury and rehabilitation in rodent models.

Applicants are encouraged to use email to contact any of the faculty of the program with whom they may share scientific interests to discuss their suitability to the program and/or potential projects in relevant laboratories.

Click to learn more about the program.

University of Washington

Program – MS in Neuroscience – Brain Computer Interface

The goal of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience is to produce the best neuroscientists possible. The breadth of our faculty allows us to provide interdisciplinary training drawing from a variety of topics, techniques and perspectives, including neuroanatomy, biochemistry, molecular biology, physiology, biophysics, pharmacology, in vivo brain imaging (e.g., fMRI, M-EEG), computational modeling and behavior. A graduate of our program will be well versed in the neurosciences, prepared to conduct independent research, and equipped to pursue a variety of career paths.

140+ faculty members of the University of Washington provide outstanding graduate training in all areas of modern neuroscience. Our students perform cutting-edge research, at a leading research university, in one of the most famously livable American cities.

The Program expects each international applicant to:

  • Find a Neuroscience Graduate Program faculty mentor who is willing to commit financial support for the student.
  • Obtain support before the deadline date of November 1st.
  • Letter of support must be presented with the application.

Click to learn more about the program.

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Program – Graduate Program in Neuroscience

The Graduate Program in Neuroscience (GPN) at the University of Minnesota is a large interdisciplinary PhD program, made up of over 100 faculty. Our goal is to provide the students with a broad and deep understanding of Neuroscience, ranging from the molecular and genetic level to computational. Due to its interdisciplinary nature, our program is a highly collaborative and collegial environment in which to train.

We are a large, multidisciplinary program consisting of over 100 faculty members from all parts of the University of Minnesota, 30 departments from over 10 colleges. The multidisciplinary nature of our Ph.D. program is one of its most significant strengths.

When you start your graduate training in our program, you begin your studies in July with a five-week laboratory course covering a range of topics in molecular, cellular, and systems neuroscience. Only available at the University of Minnesota, this nationally recognized course will give you an unparalleled introduction to the excitement of neuroscience.

Our core curriculum, that you pursue in your first year, is designed to cover all the broad areas in Neuroscience, from molecular neurobiology and genetics to computational neuroscience. The first year’s core curriculum includes courses in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience, Developmental Neuroscience and Behavioral Neuroscience. The program boasts a faculty:student ratio of more than 1:1.

The second year and subsequent years are filled with the most exciting and challenging aspects of our graduate program: defining a thesis topic and establishing a research program.

We only admit students seeking a Ph.D. degree. Most students take about five and a half years to graduate.

Click to learn more about the program

University of California – San Diego

Program – PhD in Neuroscience

The Neurosciences Graduate Program at UC San Diego is an interdisciplinary program that covers a broad spectrum of sub-disciplines in neuroscience including medicine, cellular and molecular biology, psychology, cognitive science, engineering and mathematics.

Participating faculty come from various departments across the UCSD campus as well as the Salk Institute, the Scripps Research Institute, and the Sanford-Burnham Institute.

The enormous breadth of research interests represented among our faculty provides integrated training that encompasses molecular, cellular, developmental, systems, cognitive, behavioral, and clinical neuroscience.

Our graduate program is ranked fourth in the country by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

Click here to learn more about the program

Brandeis University

Program – MS in Neuroscience

The graduate program in neuroscience, leading to the M.S. degree, is designed to equip students with the advanced knowledge and training necessary to conduct research in this interdisciplinary field. The program comprises three broadly defined areas:

  1. behavioral neuroscience involves work with humans in neuropsychology, with experimental cognitive neuroscience and sensory psychophysics, and with animal behavior and electrophysiology;
  2. cellular and molecular neuroscience provides training in electrophysiology, molecular biology, biophysics, and biochemistry appropriate to neurobiology; and
  3. computational and integrative neuroscience trains students in the use of experimental and theoretical methods for the analysis of brain function.

Students pursuing the MS degree typically take graduate-level courses and do independent laboratory research. The residency requirement is one year, and there is an optional extension to complete a Masters thesis.

Click here to learn more about the program

University of Rochester

Program – MS – Department of Biomedical Engineering

Affiliated with both the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Medicine and Dentistry, the University of Rochester graduate program in biomedical engineering emphasizes the application of engineering skills to biomedical problem-solving at both the master’s and doctoral level. With access to over 40 laboratories on the River Campus, Medical Center, and Strong Memorial Hospital, students can tailor their own interdisciplinary research experience.

The program offers state-of-the-art dedicated training laboratories, close individual attention and faculty mentoring, and a welcoming learning community where you will find great friends and future colleagues.

Click to learn more about the program

Rochester Institute of Technology

Prorgam – MS – Human Computer Interaction

Human-computer interaction (HCI) addresses the design, evaluation, and implementation of interactive computing and computing-based systems for the benefit of human use. HCI research is driven by technological advances and the increasing pervasiveness of computing devices in our society. With an emphasis on making computing technologies more user-friendly, HCI has emerged as a dynamic, multifaceted area of study that merges theory from science, engineering, and design—as well as concepts and methodologies from psychology, anthropology, sociology, and industrial design—with the technical concerns of computing.

The master of science degree in human-computer interaction provides the knowledge and skills necessary for conceptualizing, designing, implementing, and evaluating software applications and computing technologies for the benefit of the user, whether the user is an individual, a group, an organization, or a society. Human, technological, and organizational concerns are interwoven throughout the curriculum and addressed in team- and project-based learning experiences.

Click here to learn more about the program

Northwestern University

Program – MS in Biomedical Engineering (Neural Engineering)

Neural engineering extends and applies basic knowledge of the nervous system, from the molecular to the systems level, to develop useful technology for medical and other applications. Our research programs in the area of rehabilitation are complimentary to many of our neural engineering efforts. These programs use quantitative approaches to study the mechanisms contributing to sensorimotor impairment, and combine principles from the biological and engineering sciences to advance the care and treatment of individuals with these impairments. Much of our rehabilitation research is performed in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, providing faculty and students with access to patients and a dynamic clinical environment.

Click here to learn more

Rice University

Program – MS Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (Research area – Neuroengineering)

At Rice, we have a world-class team collaborating with Texas Medical Center Researchers to improve the fundamental understanding of coding and computation in the human brain as well as to develop technology for treating and diagnosing neural diseases. Current research areas include interrogating neural circuits at the cellular level, analyzing neuronal data in real-time, and manipulating healthy or diseased neural circuit activity and connectivity using nano electronics, optics, and emerging photonics technologies.

Click here to learn more about the program

Rutgers School of Engineering

Program – Master’s BioMedical Engineering (Neuroengineering)

At Rutgers Biomedical Engineering, we have over 70 graduate faculty dedicated to providing students with a solid training in the six areas of biomedical engineering and technology – molecular systems bioengineering, nanosystems and microsystems engineering, tissue engineering and regenreative medicine, physiologic systems and bioinstrumentation, biomedical engineering and neuroengineering. We accomplish this through different degree programs, each suited to students’ different career interests.

The Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering is a thesis-based degree for students who wish to equip themselves with a more solid foundation of life science and engineering fundmentals and prepare themselves for professional advancement in industry.

The Master of Engineering degree focuses on preparing students in the fundamentals of biomedical engineering without a thesis – it is a terminal degree that is not intended to lead to a PhD program.

Click here to learn more about the program

Colorado State University

Prorgam – MS – Computer Science (Research area: Brain Computer Interface Research Lab)

The objectives of Brain Computer Interface Research project are to:

  • develop open-source software for on-line EEG analysis and brain-computer interfaces;
  • compare signal quality and BCI performance of various EEG systems in users’ homes;
  • develop new algorithms for identifying cognitive components in spontaneous EEG related to mental tasks as a basis for new BCI protocols;
  • improve BCI reliability by allowing users to adapt through real-time feedback and by adapting the BCI algorithms using error-related EEG components;
  • experiment with interaction of two people using BCIs.

Results are evaluated by the accuracy of EEG classification, the speed with which the classification can be performed, and the expense of the EEG system and of its maintenance and extendibility.

Click here to learn more about the program

Career in Brain Computer Interface, Neuroscience and Neuroengineering

Brain Computer Interface and related areas including Neuroscience and Neuroengineering could be the next BIG thing. Mark Zuckerberk (Facebook), Elon Musk (Neuralink) and Bryan Johnson (Kernel) have have thrown their hat in the ring for developing next generation brain machine interfaces. These companies each represent hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development with the singular goal of making a functional connection between human brains and external computing devices.

Facebook has a large team of engineers working on building a brain-computer interface that will let you type with just your mind without invasive implants. The team plans to use optical imaging to scan your brain a hundred times per second to detect you speaking silently in your head, and translate it into text.

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk backed, Neuralink is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.

Kernel, a startup created by Braintree co-founder Bryan Johnson, is also trying to enhance human cognition. With more than $100 million of Johnson’s own money — the entrepreneur sold Braintree to PayPal for around $800 million in 2013 — Kernel and its growing team of neuroscientists and software engineers are working toward reversing the effects of neurodegenerative diseases and, eventually, making our brains faster and smarter and more wired.

To be fair, the hurdles involved in developing these devices are immense. Neuroscience researchers say we have very limited understanding about how the neurons in the human brain communicate, and our methods for collecting data on those neurons is rudimentary.

This has not stopped a surge in Silicon Valley interest from tech industry futurists who are interested in accelerating the advancement of these types of far-off ideas.

This is the right time to equip yourself with an MS to get ready for an exciting career ahead in BCI and related areas.

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