Developing AI-based therapies to fix the nervous system – Technology Org


Lajoie, who holds a Canada CIFAR AI Chair and the Canada Research Chair in Neural Computation and Interfacing, is creating algorithms to facilitate the interaction between biological and AI neural networks.

At BIOS Health, his expertise is being applied to develop techniques to stimulate the vagal nerve in order to prevent arrhythmic events. “The vagal nerve is a very long nerve that transmits the impulses responsible for the autonomic functioning of many organs,” Lajoie explained. “So the idea is to interact with the nerve using electrodes that can record and modulate the heartbeat. If we can predict arrhythmias, we can develop ways to prevent them through targeted nervous system stimulation.”

Lajoie is also developing technologies of this type in his own lab, in collaboration with Numa Dancause, a professor in the Department of Neurosciences at UdeM, and Marco Bonizzato, a professor at Polytechnique Montréal. Together, they are working on AI-based neural implants to help rehabilitate stroke patients.

“After a stroke, you can lose motor skills in your hand, for example,” said Lajoie. “During rehab, physiotherapy tries to recreate the lost connections in the brain by forcing movements. Directly stimulating the neurons specialized in performing hand movements could help the brain directly repair the connections.”

A growing field

Neural technology, brain-machine interfacing, neural digital therapy and neural engineering have become trendy terms in industry and academic research alike.

Founded in 2015, BIOS Health is one of a growing contingent of companies using artificial intelligence to read, write and analyze data from the nervous system. Another is Neuralink, a U.S. start-up founded by Elon Musk that is working to develop brain implants to link the brain and AI seamlessly.

Montreal is in the thick of the action. Thanks to Université de Montréal and Mila, as well as the Institute for Data Valorization (IVADO), Montreal has become a world leader in this booming field.

“UdeM has a very rich ecosystem in AI and neuroscience,” said Lajoie. “This expertise allows us to develop revolutionary treatments and ask previously unanswered scientific questions about the brain.”

Source: University of Montreal


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