Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Electrical & Systems Engineering

First Advisor

Jan Van der Spiegel


A brain-machine interface (BMI) creates an artificial pathway between the brain and the external world. The research and applications of BMI have received enormous attention among the scientific community as well as the public in the past decade. However, most research of BMI relies on experiments with tethered or sedated animals, using rack-mount equipment, which significantly restricts the experimental methods and paradigms. Moreover, most research to date has focused on neural signal recording or decoding in an open-loop method. Although the use of a closed-loop, wireless BMI is critical to the success of an extensive range of neuroscience research, it is an approach yet to be widely used, with the electronics design being one of the major bottlenecks. The key goal of this research is to address the design challenges of a closed-loop, bidirectional BMI by providing innovative solutions from the neuron-electronics interface up to the system level.

Circuit design innovations have been proposed in the neural recording front-end, the neural feature extraction module, and the neural stimulator. Practical design issues of the bidirectional neural interface, the closed-loop controller and the overall system integration have been carefully studied and discussed.To the best of our knowledge, this work presents the first reported portable system to provide all required hardware for a closed-loop sensorimotor neural interface, the first wireless sensory encoding experiment conducted in freely swimming animals, and the first bidirectional study of the hippocampal field potentials in freely behaving animals from sedation to sleep.

This thesis gives a comprehensive survey of bidirectional BMI designs, reviews the key design trade-offs in neural recorders and stimulators, and summarizes neural features and mechanisms for a successful closed-loop operation. The circuit and system design details are presented with bench testing and animal experimental results. The methods, circuit techniques, system topology, and experimental paradigms proposed in this work can be used in a wide range of relevant neurophysiology research and neuroprosthetic development, especially in experiments using freely behaving animals.

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