We propose to develop miniature optical brain-machine interfaces – portable devices that monitor and manipulate neural activity by detecting and focusing light in photosensitized neurons. Our goal is to enable the study of advanced brain functions, diseases, and the neural basis of animal behavior with new experiments that cannot be achieved using existing technologies, because they require the precise activation of many individual neurons, simultaneously across large, distributed networks, in vivo, and in real time.
To succeed, we depart from traditional microscopy approaches that capture images and require time-consuming data post-processing. Instead, we will design new optical hardware and algorithms that are optimized together to maximize the flow of optically encoded information being exchanged with the brain, without ever acquiring images. Our innovative strategy, at the interface between optical engineering, computer sciences, and neurosciences will simultaneously tackle major performance limitations of current optical neural interfacing methods that are speed, size, scalability, and biocompatibility, paving the way to future portable brain implants.