Training a Generation of Neuroengineers

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Boyden, E. S. (2008) "Training a Generation of Neuroengineers." Ed Boyden's Blog, Technology Review. 4/22/08. (

Neurological and psychiatric disorders such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson's disease, autism, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain affect well over a billion people worldwide. These disorders steal away not only life span, but also our selves and identities. More than $1,000,000,000,000 is spent yearly in the battle against these disorders, even in the absence of effective treatments for many of them. Compared with innovations in other fields, like cancer, neurotechnologies have trickled out of labs at a relatively slow pace, yielding a handful of good drugs, a couple of methods for brain stimulation, and a few ways to image and analyze brain structure and activity. Like many innovations in medicine and bioengineering, these triumphs often emerged in no small part by chance, which makes iterative improvement tricky. Clearly, something new is needed. That's why, over the past year, we've begun experimenting with a hands-on neuroengineering curriculum at MIT, in which undergraduate and graduate students actively engage in the process of becoming neuroengineers, learning to solve intractable problems of the brain by actually doing it. ...