Flexible and User-defined Technologies for Unconstrained neural Recording Experiments in Non-Human Primates

Progetto finanziato dal Consiglio Europeo della Ricerca, ERC Proof of Concept grant, 1 Settembre 2020 – 31 Agosto 2022, 150.000 €

Some of the greatest today’s challenges in understanding human brain functions and dysfunctions are being tackled by using Non-Human Primates (NHPs), a unique and still unreplaceable model in neurophysiology because of their remarkable anatomo-functional, cognitive and behavioural similarities to humans.

Tethered neural recordings have been, so far, the virtually unique methodology available for these studies. Nonetheless, this approach 1) limits the range of behaviours and functions that can be investigated, 2) reduces the ecological validity of the results and 3) increases the public ethical concerns about the use of NHP, challenging the future of this still fundamental branch of science.

This project FUTURE-NHP capitalizes on the preliminary findings of the ERCstg grant “WIRELESS”, in which we are developing a new approach to brain studies in freely-moving NHP with wireless technologies and video behavioural monitoring. The aim of FUTURE-NHP is the fabrication and pre-commercial testing of a new, 3D printed cranial device, allowing to easily and flexibly perform semi-chronic neural recordings from a fully customizable and interchangeable sets of multielectrode probes. With our partner SME we will perform, in parallel, a detailed evaluation of commercial opportunities for the developed device in a global (not just EU) perspective using clear IPR constructions and strategies.

Furthermore, we will implement a software platform allowing end- users to design customized layouts of the device for custom-specific applications. The device will be optimized for (but not limited to) wireless recording experiments and will be made compatible with different types of probes and recording systems. By extending the range of affordable neuroscientific questions to unconstrained behaviors, FUTURE-NHP will improve the ecological validity of neurophysiological data and their translational value for humans, and contribute to make more ethically acceptable NHP fundamental research.