Message from the Editor: A Year in Review

Ricardo Chavarriaga

As we enter a new year, it is a good time to look back at the activities of the IEEE Brain Initiative during the past 12 months. Our community has been extremely engaged on the advancement of neurotechnologies. Not only through excellent research endeavors, but also through a series of outreach activities involving different relevant actors to recognize the state-of-the art of this field and shape its future.

The IEEE Brain Initiative organized several events throughout the last year, including the IEEE Brain Sensors workshop (Glasgow, Nov) and the IEEE Brain Initiative Workshop on Advanced NeuroTechnologies for BRAIN Initiatives (Washington DC, Nov). We also supported workshops at the IEEE EMBS conference on Neural Engineering (Shanghai, May) and the IEEE SMC conference (Banff, Oct). These events were really fruitful to provide a snapshot of the state-of-the-art in our field and built spaces for leaders from academia, industry and regulatory bodies to identify current challenges and explore novel solutions to overcome substantial roadblocks. Our community also supported other events covering diverse topics like Neuroethics and the relation between Neuroscience and Arts. More information about all our past and future events can be found in our website.

Moreover, some of the scientific contributions of our members were showcased through  special issues of IEEE Proceedings on “Advanced Technologies for Brain Research” [1], and IEEE Transactions on Neural and Rehabilitation Engineering on the “State-of-the-art in BCI” [2]. Presented results confirm the important role our community is playing in spearheading progress of neurotechnologies and brain machine interface.

In addition, the IEEE Brain Initiative was strongly engaged in outreaching the interested public at large. Our website provides now a growing list of educational materials including video lectures and keynote talks.  Podcasts highlighting the work of various SMEs will be available early 2018. Moreover, the initiative provided support to several brain-related challenges, comprising three Brain Data Bank Challenges (St. Petersburg, Jun; Glasgow, Oct; and Boston, Dec), and two BR41N.IO BCI hackathons (Valencia, Jul; and Banff, Oct). These events allowed researchers, developers and enthusiasts with different levels of expertise to explore novel ways for interfacing brains and machines, and explore new approaches to analyze brain data. As new developments in machine learning and sensing technologies become available, hackathons and challenges constitute a fertile ground to think outside the box, disseminate current knowledge about neurotechnologies and attempt novel approaches to tackle current challenges.

Last but not least, I would like to highlight the contribution of our community to the discussions about future perspectives in neurotechnology. One of these efforts is the work, in collaboration with the IEEE standards association, of the IEEE Industry Connections activity on standards for brain-machine interface and neurotechnologies. The group counts with more than 50 members from all related disciplines working on identifying current gaps and priorities for BMI standards. A white paper describing the outcome of discussions of this group is planned to be released in spring 2018. In addition, The IEEE Brain Initiative also contributed to the discussion on societal impacts of new technologies through participation in different panels (IEEE TechEthics conference, and a Neuroethics Session at IEEE Brain Initiative Workshop) and opinion papers [3]. See also a related article on Neurorights in this issue of BrainInsight [4].

We are thus excited to look back at a very productive year where neurotechnologies have continued their steady progression in all different aspects, from sensing technology to wider tests and deployment involving the intended end-users. More importantly, we are positive that the engagement of our community will play a key role in bringing even more significant advancements in 2018 and will further contribute to making reality the vision of brain-related technologies that bring tangible improvements to human condition and society.


  1. Akay M., Sajda P., Micera S., Carmena J.M. (2017) Advanced Technologies for Brain Research [Scanning the Issue]. Proceedings of the IEEE 105(1):8-10. DOI1109/JPROC.2016.2634058
  2. Müller K.-R., Carmena J.M. (2017) Editorial IEEE Brain Initiative Special issue on BMI/BCI Systems. IEEE Trans Neur Sys Rehab Eng 25(10):1685-1686 DOI1109/TNSRE.2017.2755271
  3. Yuste R., Goering S., Agüera y Arcas B., Bi G., Carmena J.M., et al. (2017) Four ethical priorities for neurotechnologies and AI. Nature 551(7679):159-163. DOI : 10.1038/551159a
  4. Ienca M. (2017) Brain Machine Interfaces, Artificial Intelligence and Neurorights. BrainInsight.

About the Author

Ricardo ChavarriagaRicardo Chavarriaga (IEEE member) is a senior researcher at the Center for Neuroprosthetics of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. He holds a B.Sc. degree in Electronics Engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Cali, Colombia and a PhD in computational neuroscience from EPFL. He co-chairs the IEEE SMC technical committee in BMI systems, and is part of the steering committee of the IEEE Brain Initiative. His research focuses on robust brain-machine interfaces and multimodal human-machine interaction. Specifically, the decoding of cortical potentials that convey information about the user’s cognitive processes. Furthermore, He investigates on how the exploitation of such processes can be integrated with shared control principles and hybrid approaches for BMI control of complex devices.