The NERD is dedicated towards the research & development of innovative neural solutions and advancing neuroscience through fundamental research. NERD is housed within the Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering at Mississippi State University, but the research activities stretch much wider. NERD recognizes the multidisciplinary nature of neural engineering and works closely with all the other engineering disciplines, the Department of Psychology, the Department of Philosophy, CAVS, HPC2, industry and many other collaborative partnerships.
NERD is interested in any research at the intersection of engineering, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence. We use state-of-the-art machine learning techniques and virtual reality (VR) paradigms to help analyze and classify brain signals in several novel applications including: to gain a better understanding of the brain; in wearables used to monitor brain states; diagnosis or treatment of mental disorders; to control prosthetics; or to develop and support new augmented human abilities.
Do we have free will?
This project builds on the seminal work done by Libet et al in 1983. The goal is to identify neural activity indicative of a decision but preceding the conscious awareness of the decision. We look beyond the traditional EEG analysis of event related potentials by developing machine learning models to classify decisions based on EEG data. Can we predict what you will decide before you consciously make the decision? And what are the implications for free will? Watch this space…
Decoding conceptual representations in the human brain
Despite decades of research, many aspects of the neural dynamics involved in the seemingly trivial act of recognizing an object, remain unclear. The objective of the proposed project is to better understand the neural process of conceptual representation in the human brain. The project will investigate and characterize conceptual processing as the brain transforms sensory information into more abstract and meaningful conceptual information over time.
The dawn of Cyborgs
Armed with our skills as engineers and our knowledge of the brain we develop brain computer interface (BCI) systems to help many people with disabilities improve their quality of life. Using machine learning models trained on EEG brain signals we classify a person’s intended movements which we then use to control purposefully developed prosthetic devices. However, why stop there? We can use the same technology to transform everyone at NERD into cyborgs (a cyborg is a being with both organic and biomechatronic body parts). In this way we can acquire new abilities (think of seeing in the infra-red spectrum, acquiring an intuitive sense of direction, having and controlling an extra limb). We will transform and adapt what it means to be human.
The brain of an elite athlete
As New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra quipped, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical”. This is true of all sports, not just baseball. We are investigating the mental aspects of elite sports by monitoring the brain activity of athletes just prior to and during their complex movement sequences to unlock the secrets to success. The long-term goal is to develop wearables that can be used to help train the brain for optimal performance.