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Watson Lecture - Unlocking Movement: Helping Paralyzed People Use Thought to Control Computers and Robotic Limbs

Wednesday, November 8, 2023
7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Beckman Auditorium
  • Public Event

A number of medical conditions can cause paralysis including spinal cord injury, stroke, neurological diseases, and traumatic brain injury. What if there was a way to help patients regain sensation and control over assistive devices using their thoughts? Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) consist of tiny electrodes that record the activity of large numbers of cortical neurons along with artificial intelligence algorithms that can interpret a user's intent based on neural activity. In this talk, neuroscientist Richard Andersen, will discuss how researchers in his lab, working with collaborating colleagues, have used a novel approach of implanting electrodes in a variety of specialized cortical areas rather than just the motor cortex. Using this approach, paralyzed patients can control robotics and computers, allowing them to drink a beverage, play a computer piano, use video games and programs like Photoshop, drive an automobile, and feel touch in hands and arms that have previously been rendered insensate from spinal cord injury. Moreover, researchers have been able to decode speech—including patients' silent internal speech—and patients' observations of others.


Evening Schedule

6 p.m. — Activities and music. Food and drinks available for purchase

7 p.m. — Doors open

7:30 p.m. — Talk and Q&A

8:30 p.m. — Post-talk concessions and conversation

The live event is in-person and a recording will be made available on our Youtube channel.

About the Series

For more than 100 years, the Watson Lectures have brought the wonder of Caltech research and discovery to the public.

Free and open to the public, the Watson Lecture Series offers a unique and accessible opportunity to learn more about cutting-edge science directly from Caltech's premier researchers. Come early to mingle with your neighbors over food, drink and music, as well as interactive displays related to the evening's topic. Then head inside to hear a stimulating talk and stay to ask your burning questions.

Many past Watson Lectures are available on YouTube.

For more information, please contact The Caltech Ticket Office by email at