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uni'alumni 2013_ENG

Prof. Dr. Ad Aertsen Professor of Neurobiology and Bio- physics at the Institute of Biology III “In my opinion, it is not individual areas that are responsible for function and especially dysfunction in the brain. Rather, diseases arise as a result of faulty interactions in and between the networks of nerve cells that make up the brain. I am thus interested in modeling dynamic pro- cesses in the brain with computers in order to better understand how they function. It is important to learn more about diseases in these networks, for instance in order to understand how treatments like deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s patients work and how they might be improved upon. I am also interested in analyzing data we extract from the brain. Such analyses of brain activity play an essential role in the development of brain-machine interfaces. They can be used to derive control signals for devices we would like to develop that can be controlled by the brain.” Prof. Dr. Maren Bennewitz Head of the Humanoid Robots Lab at the Department of Computer Science “I am conducting research on humanoid robots, in particular on how they can navigate and move. It is challenging for these two-legged robots to keep their balance and keep from fall- ing down. Seemingly simple tasks, such as opening a door or picking up an object, can be very complex. First, we have to consider stability, and second, the robot can select from an enormous number of body positions and move- ments. I want to get them to do this as efficiently as possible, and that means quickly. We don’t want a robot that first has to spend half a minute calculating before finally carrying out a task. Getting a robot to carry out a task that a human thinks and that is then decoded by a brain-machine interface would be a valuable contribution. In addition, we want to learn more about how humans move and transfer this knowledge to robots. Last but not least, we want to determine whether it is possible to detect certain diseases early on by way of slight changes in human motion sequences.” Dr. Tonio Ball Research Assistant at the Epilepsy Center of the Freiburg University Medical Center “We want to develop new thera- peutic approaches to help paralyzed patients by identifying movements they can no longer make on their own and having a computer do this for them. To this end, I am studying the signals that can be derived directly by the human brain with implanted elec- trodes. I find that this research is currently in a particularly fascinating phase: Not only are we using the sig- nals to obtain commands for control- ling machines, we are also beginning to understand what these signals mean with regard to the underlying networks of nerve cells. We want to extend the possibilities for applying our research to medical practice even further to include patients who have lost the power of speech and can no longer communicate in daily life. We think that it might be possible to measure the brain activity of these patients and determine what they want to say. A computer could then take over and speak for patients who have suffered a severe stroke.” Cell Networks, Robots, and Ethics What are the scientists at the new Cluster of Excellence BrainLinks-BrainTools working on? Gunnar Grah asked around. VOICES uni'alumni 2013 Cover Story 7