Category: Faculty (Page 1 of 4)

Neuron paper on proprioception published by UWIN affiliates John Tuthill and Pralaksha Gurung

"Neural Coding of Leg Proprioception in Drosophila" written by John Tuthill and Pralaksha Gurung, published in Neuron

Graphical Abstract for “Neural Coding of Leg Proprioception in Drosophila”

UWIN faculty member John Tuthill and UWIN-post baccalaureate fellow Pralaksha Gurung published a paper in Neuron  on how sensory neurons in a single leg joint in Drosophila (a genus of flies often lumped together as “small fruit flies”) code movements and control behavior in that joint. The paper titled “Neural Coding of Leg Proprioception in Drosophila” describes the work using fluorescent dye-based two-photon calcium imaging to isolate and investigate these specific sensory neurons.

In order to move, nearly all mobile animals rely on receptors that specialize in position and movement called proprioceptors. Challenges arise in modeling and analyzing proprioceptors due to complications in isolating the specific clusters of receptors and relating them across individuals in a species. These challenges were addressed in this paper by focusing on a specific proprioceptor group within the leg of the fruit fly – which previous research had marked as controlling precise leg movements, such as walking.  In order to isolate the specific proprioceptor, a magnet and pin glued onto the fly’s tibia controlled the fly’s leg position.  By measuring neuron activity during the fly’s range of leg movements, the researchers found the sub-classes of neurons that responded to different positions of the joint, as well as the neuron’s sensitivity to movements.  The isolation and mapping of the cluster of neurons provides more insight into how proprioceptors aid in everyday motion.

"Neural Coding of Leg Proprioception in Drosophila" written by John Tuthill and Pralaksha Gurung, published in Neuron

This work helps build an understanding of how stimulation of a single leg joint is received and translated by sensory neurons, and also builds a framework for how complex feedback signals are used in the body to dictate movement.  This work connects with the mission of the Air Force Center of Excellence on Nature-Inspired Flight Technologies and Ideas (NIFTI).

Previously, Dr. Tuthill won a 2018 McKnight Scholars award,  was named a 2017 Allen Institute Next Generation Leader, was awarded a Sloan Fellowship, was named a 2017 Searle Scholar, and received a UW Innovation Award.

UWIN visiting scientist Rafael Yuste wins 2018 Eliasson Global Leadership Prize

UWIN visiting scientist Rafael Yuste, winner of the Eliasson Global Leadership Prize

UWIN visiting scientist Rafael Yuste

We are excited to announce that UWIN visiting scientist Rafael Yuste has won the 2018 Eliasson Global Leadership Prize given by the Tällberg Foundation! Neuroscientist Rafael Yuste is a professor of Biological Sciences and director of the NeuroTechnology Center at Columbia University, and is currently a UWIN visiting scientist.  Dr. Yuste is an expert on advanced optical methods for in vivo neural recording and additionally has contributed significantly in the area of single neuron biophysics. His laboratory analyses structure, dynamics and coding in cortex and in the cnidarian Hydra.

The Eliasson Global Leadership Prize honors recipients who embody the ideals of Jan Eliasson, a Swedish diplomat and former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.  The foundation selects recipients whose work is “innovative, optimistic, courageous, rooted in universal values and global in implication.”  In addition to Professor Yuste’s research in advanced optical methods for in vivo neural recording in an effort to understand how neural circuits in the cerebral cortex work, he has also placed an emphasis on scientific advocacy. In 2011, Yuste proposed a large scale neuroscience project which became the basis of US BRAIN Initiative, a 12 year proposal that currently involves over 500 labs and is working to understand the neural pathways in humans and animals. As this research progressed, Yuste expanded his work into the consequences of this research, considering the possible impacts of the convergence of neuroscience and artificial intelligence and advocated to add five “NeuroRights” in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The chairman of the Tällberg Foundation, Alan Stoga, said the Prize jury recognized Professor Yuste’s  “commitment to thinking about human identity in more robust ways and his absolute urgency to encourage others to think deeply about the ethics and ethical implications of disruptive technology, particularly in neuroscience”

December 2018 UWIN seminar: Short talks by Tom Daniel and Chris Rudell

December 2018 UWIN Seminar Speakers Tom Daniel and Chris RudellPlease join us for the December 2018 UWIN seminar! This seminar features a pair of short talks by UWIN faculty members Tom Daniel and Chris Rudell:

  • Engineering Odor Guided Flight”
    Tom Daniel, Professor, Department of Biology, University of Washington
  • Highly-Integrated Neural Stimulation Electronics for Bidirectional Brain-Computer Interfaces (BBCI) including Artifact Cancellation”
    Chris Rudell, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Washington

The seminar is on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 at 3:30pm in Husky Union Building (HUB) 337. Refreshments will be served prior to the talks.


“Engineering Odor Guided Flight” (Tom Daniel):

The capacity for animals to localize odor sources far exceeds what can be manufactured today. In part, this extraordinary capacity is due to the behavioral mechanisms animals use and in part to the neural machine they deploy. This talk will review past work in odor localization and then continue to a neuro-integrated system that draws on the unparalleled sensory capabilities of animals. It is also possible I may change my mind and talk about something else.


“Highly-Integrated Neural Stimulation Electronics for Bidirectional Brain-Computer Interfaces (BBCI) including Artifact Cancellation” (Chris Rudell):

Miniaturization of neural stimulation and recording electronics is a key obstacle to the vision of using in vivo Bidirectional Brain Computer Interfaces (BBCI) for neuromodulation. This presentation will highlight techniques enabling integration of BBCI systems in single chip form. Specifically, our group has focused on integrating stimulation electronics using low-voltage digital CMOS to achieve a reliable high-voltage compliant (+/-12V) single-chip stimulator. The chip is capable of delivering a Biphasic Current Pulse of up to 2mA into a broad range of electrode impedances, from purely resistive to capacitive. The presentation will conclude with the description of a recently fabricated BBCE chip. A product of joint collaborative efforts, this 2mm x 2mm single chip integrates a 64-channel neural recording front-end with 4-stimulation channels and both differential- and common-mode artifact cancellation in a 65nm TSMC process.

Successful spinal cord rehabilitation trial by UWIN affiliates Chet Moritz and Soshi Samejima featured on King 5 News

Successful spine injury rehabilitation trial conducted by UWIN affilliates Chet Mortiz and Soshi Samejima

Transcutaneous Spinal Stimulation project with Chet Moritz
Image credit: Center for Neurotechnology;

UWIN/Center for Neurotechnology (CNT) graduate fellow Soshi Samejima, and UWIN faculty member (and CNT Co-Director) Chet Moritz were featured on King 5 News for their research which resulted in a successful spinal cord rehabilitation trial.  The article focuses on the study participant, Joe Beatty, who suffered a spine injury which left him with a “future life without the use of his limbs.”  During the course of the study, Joe has regained some fine control in his limbs, going from having “a difficult time to feed himself, grabbing thing, grasping utensils” to movement that is “improved where he can grab sandwiches, he can grab a remote, grab his cell phone,” even walking with some aid for up to eight minutes.  With defined improvements in Joe’s movements, the initial trial has been a success and the Center for Neurotechnology is looking to refine and expand the new method of rehabilitation for chronic spinal cord injuries.

Dr. Mortiz and his team changed the traditional invasive methods of spinal cord rehabilitation by applying transcutaneous electrical simulation – that is, stimulation of spinal cord circuits through the skin. This noninvasive electrical stimulation happens at the same time that the patient performs movements, and the stimulation allows the patient to move better than without stimulation.  Repeated sessions even lead to long term improvements, although the exact mechanism has not been solidified. Currently, Dr. Mortiz and his team believe that by having the simulator firing at the same time that the patient practices movements, the patient can rewire the connections between the neurons in the brain and the spinal cord, leading to long term changes.

With initial success in nerve stimulation trials, the study plans to expand to four other states with the intent to design individual units that patients can take to their house in order to provide convenient ongoing treatment.  Learn more about this research on the Center for Neurotechnology website and in the study’s associated paper.

Soshi Samejima was awarded a UWIN graduate fellowship in 2017.  Chet Moritz, in addition to being the CNT Co-Director and a member of the UWIN Executive Committee, is part of the team running the Laboratory for Amplifying Motion and Performance (AMP Lab).  He was also part of the team awarded a $1 million prize as part of reaching the finals in the GlaxoSmithKline Bioelectronics Innovation Challenge.

November 2018 UWIN Seminar: Joint seminar with the eScience Institute, talk by Reza Hosseini Ghomi

Reza Hosseini Ghomi, the November 2018 UWIN seminar speaker The November 2018 UWIN seminar is a special joint seminar with the eScience Institute! The seminar will be given by Reza Hosseini Ghomi, a Senior Fellow in the Department of Neurology at the University of Washington, and the Chief Medical Officer of NeuroLex Laboratories.  He will be speaking on:

Digital Biomarkers: Do they hold promise for better neuropsychiatric disease detection?

The seminar is on Wednesday, November 14th, 2018, at 3:30pm in Health Science Building (HSB) K-069. Refreshments will be served prior to the talk.


For this talk I would like to review the field of digital biomarkers and provide some background and context for our work. Specifically, what are digital biomarkers and how are they useful? I will show some results of our early work using recorded voice samples, accelerometer data, neuroimaging measures, and several other objective and subjective measures from patients with Parkinson’s, Depression, Schizophrenia, and from the Framingham Heart Study’s cognitive aging cohort. We will touch on the shifting paradigm of research to complete work in this area of big data and what we can do differently moving forward to offer novel insights.


Reza’s passion lies at the intersection of neuropsychiatry, technology, and education. He is most interested in bringing significant and measurable improvement to the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of neuropsychiatric illness through the advancement of technology, and empowerment through collaboration.

To that end, when he is not practicing neuropsychiatry, he is director of the DigiPsych Lab and chief medical officer for NeuroLex Laboratories where his research and development work focuses on the exciting new field of voice diagnostics – using a brief recording of voice to screen, diagnose, and track a wide range of illnesses in an ultra-rapid, cost-effective, accurate, and accessible way.

Drawing on his previous experience as an engineer – he develops imaging technology at Massachusetts General Hospital and an electronic health record for VecnaCares. He is also a founding partner of Stanford Brainstorm, the first behavioral health innovation and entrepreneurship laboratory.

He holds a BS in electrical and computer engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an MSE in biomedical and electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University, and an MD from University of Massachusetts Medical School, and is now completing and transitioning from the University of Washington’s psychiatry residency to their neurology movement disorders fellowship to focus on neurodegenerative disease

October 2018 UWIN seminar: Short talks by Howard Chizeck and Bill Moody

Howard Chizeck and Bill Moody will give short talks at the October 2018 UWIN seminarThe UWIN seminar series resumes for the 2018-19 academic year!  The October 2018 UWIN seminar features an exciting pair of short talks by UWIN faculty members Howard Chizeck and Bill Moody:

  • “Challenges in Optimizing Deep Brain Stimulation”
    Howard Chizeck, Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Washington
  • “Trans-skull imaging of brain activity in neonatal mice during spontaneous sleep-wake cycles”
    Bill Moody, Professor, Department of Biology, University of Washington

The seminar is on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 at 3:30pm in Health Sciences Building (HSB) G-328.  Refreshments will be served prior to the talks.


“Challenges in Optimizing Deep Brain Stimulation” (Howard Chizeck):

Deep Brain Stimulation is an approved treatment for Parkinson’s Disease and essential tremor, and is under investigation at various institutions for several other neurological conditions. New devices make it possible to optimally select stimulation parameters for currently approved “open loop” treatments, and to implement closed loop algorithms that adjust stimulation “on the fly,” so as to address tradeoffs between symptom management and side effects. Recent results that we have obtained will be briefly described, and current challenges will be described.


“Trans-skull imaging of brain activity in neonatal mice during spontaneous sleep-wake cycles” (Bill Moody):

Widely propagating waves of electrical activity occur throughout the brain during early development, where they provide long- and short-range synchrony in neuronal activity that helps to establish cortical circuitry. Neuronal activity that is synchronized over large distances also occurs during adult slow-wave sleep and serves a central role in memory consolidation. Using trans-skull optical imaging of brain activity in neonatal mice, combined with power spectral analysis of EMG activity to measure sleep-wake cycles and dimensionality reduction methods to analyze the spatio-temporal patterns of brain activity, we have discovered that pan-cortical waves of activity, which had previously been thought to occur during all behavioral states in the developing brain, are in fact already segregated into sleep cycles by the end of the first postnatal week. Our results suggest that pan-cortical waves of activity in development may establish the long-range neuronal circuitry that is used in adult sleep to consolidate events experienced during wakefulness into long-term memory.

John Tuthill, UWIN faculty, wins 2018 McKnight Scholar Award

John Tuthill, UWIN faculty, winner of a 2018 McKnight Scholar AwardWe are proud to announce that John Tuthill, a UWIN faculty member, has won a 2018 McKnight Scholar AwardThe McKnight Scholar Awards, administered by the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, “encourage neuroscientists in the early stages of their careers to focus on disorders of learning and memory”.

The McKnight Scholar Awards “are granted to young scientists who are in the early stages of establishing their own independent laboratories and research careers and who have demonstrated a commitment to neuroscience. The mission of the Endowment Fund is to support innovative research that can bring science closer to the day when diseases of the brain can be accurately diagnosed, prevented, and treated.”

John Tuthill is one of six researchers awarded a 2018 McKnight Scholar Award.  His research is on the topic of “Proprioceptive Feedback Control of Locomotion in Drosophila”: “Proprioception–the body’s sense of self-movement and position–is critical, for the effective control of movement, yet little is known about how the brain’s motor circuits integrate this feedback to guide future movements. Dr. Tuthill’s lab is working to unlock the essence of motor learning in the brain by investigating how walking fruit flies learn to avoid obstacles and navigate unpredictable environments, assessing the role of sensory feedback in motor control by optogenetically manipulating proprioceptor activity. A deeper understanding of proprioceptive feedback control has the potential to transform the way in which we understand and treat movement disorders.”

Previously, Dr. Tuthill was named a 2017 Allen Institute Next Generation Leader, awarded a Sloan Fellowship, named a 2017 Searle Scholar, and received a UW Innovation Award.

World’s lightest wireless flying robot created by UWIN faculty member Sawyer Fuller’s team

Size comparison between RoboFly, the lightest wireless flying robot, and a real fly

Size comparison between RoboFly and a real fly

UWIN faculty member Sawyer Fuller and his team have created what is to date the world’s lightest wireless flying robot. Weighing in at 190 mg, “RoboFly” is only slightly larger than an actual fly. The team also includes Vikram Iyer, Johannes James, Shyam Gollakota, and  Yogesh Chukewad. See the research paper here.

Currently, insect-sized flying machines need to be tethered in order to deliver the power required for flight (check out Fuller’s “RoboBee“). In order to circumvent this issue, RoboFly is powered by a laser beam using a photovoltaic cell. An on-board circuit boosts the seven volts generated by the cell to the 240 necessary to power the wings. The circuit also contains a microcontroller which controls the movement of the wings. “The microcontroller acts like a real fly’s brain telling wing muscles when to fire,” according to Vikram Iyer.

RoboFly, the lightest wireless flying robot, circuit

RoboFly’s flexible circuit. The copper coil and black boxes to the right comprise the boost converter, and the microcontroller is the small square box in the top right.

In the future, autonomous roboinsects could be used to complete tasks such as surveying crop growth or detecting gas leaks. “I’d really like to make one that finds methane leaks,” says Fuller. “You could buy a suitcase full of them, open it up, and they would fly around your building looking for plumes of gas coming out of leaky pipes. If these robots can make it easy to find leaks, they will be much more likely to be patched up, which will reduce greenhouse emissions. This is inspired by real flies, which are really good at flying around looking for smelly things. So we think this is a good application for our RoboFly.”

The team that created Robofly, the world's lightest wireless flying robot.

The Robofly team. Front row: Vikram Iyer (left) and Johannes James; back row (from left): Yogesh Chukewad, Sawyer Fuller, and Shyam Gollakota.

At the moment, RoboFly is only capable of taking off and landing, as there is no way for the laser beam to track the robot’s movement; but the team hopes to soon be able to steer the laser and allow the machine to hover and fly. Shyam Gollakota says that future versions could use tiny batteries or harvest energy from radio frequency signals. That way, their power source can be modified for specific tasks.

See a video below of the RoboFly in action!

RoboFly has received extensive publicity, see coverage by WIRED, The Economist, IEEE Spectrum, MIT Tech Review, TechCrunch, Discover Magazine, GeekWire, Popular Mechanics, Engadget, CNET, Digital Trends, Siliconrepublic, and SlashGear.

UWIN faculty members Steve Brunton and Kat Steele win 2018 UW College of Engineering Awards

UW College of Engineering Award winners Steve Brunton and Kat SteeleWe are excited to announce that two UWIN faculty members have won 2018 UW College of Engineering Awards! Steve Brunton won the Junior Faculty Award and Kat Steele received the Team Award as part of the Engineering Innovation in Health teaching team.  The College of Engineering Awards “acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the college’s teaching and research assistants, staff and faculty members.” Congratulations to Steve and Kat!

Both have previously won UW College of Engineering Awards.  In 2017, Steve won the Faculty Award for Teaching; and in 2016, Kat  won the Junior Faculty Award.

UWIN faculty Andre Berndt and John Tuthill named 2017 Allen Institute Next Generation Leaders

Andre Bernt and John Tuthill, UWIN faculty named as 2017 Allen Institute Next Generation LeadersWe are excited to announce that two UWIN faculty members, Andre Berndt and John Tuthill, have been named as 2017 Allen Institute for Brain Science Next Generation Leaders!  The Allen Institute’s Next Generation Leaders are “distinguished early-career researchers who will provide feedback in both formal and informal settings to scientists at the Allen Institute”.

“We are very pleased to welcome this group of impressive researchers as advisors to the Allen Institute,” says Christof Koch, President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “Their caliber and fresh perspectives make them invaluable to our team. We look forward to hearing their feedback as well as providing guidance as they build their own careers.”

According to the Allen Institute, “Next Generation Leaders are selected each year through a competitive application process from a pool of international applicants.”  Six researchers were appointed in the 2017 cohort; only two of the six are from the University of Washington, and both of those are UWIN faculty members!  This is the first time University of Washington faculty have been named Allen Institute Next Generation Leaders.

Earlier this year, Dr. Tuthill was also awarded a Sloan Fellowship, named a 2017 Searle Scholar, and received a UW Innovation Award.

You can read more at the Allen Institute press release, as well as see the biographies of Drs. Berndt and Tuthill.

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