Research Group

Brain-Computer Interfaces and Neural Engineering

An experiment being carried out in the Brain-Computer Interfaces lab

Neural engineering is an exciting area of biomedical engineering that combines engineering, neuroscience, psychology, and machine learning to understand, repair, replace and enhance the properties of neural systems. Subareas include brain-computer interfaces, neurorehabilitation, human augmentation, cognitive enhancement, neuro-muscular interfaces, neuro-adaptive systems, neuro-stimulation, and many more.

Our mission is conducting theoretical research that expands our understanding of the brain and neural systems and to convert this into engineering principles and applications to repair, replace and enhance such systems.

Interest in neural engineering technologies for both disabled and able-bodied individuals has grown exponentially in recent years. Today there are a plethora of neuro technologies being trialled that improve communication, decision making, motor control, memory, attention, learning, problem solving, etc. There are also several large-scale initiatives (from the US and UK Military, to Elon Musk’s Neuralink project and many more) that seek practical exploitation of neural technologies.

The Essex Brain Computer Interfaces and Neural Engineering (BCI-NE) laboratory

The BCI-NE lab was founded in 2004 and is now one of the largest in the world and one of the best for non-invasive interfaces and cognitive augmentation.

The lab has recently moved to a new home spanning 190m² and has state-of-the-art facilities. These include three large Faraday cages, a robotic brain stimulation system, multiple EEG, fNIRS, and EMG measurement systems, body measurement systems (e.g. respiration sensors and eye trackers), a mobile VR kit, motorised wheelchairs and robotic arms, and computing servers with backup storage.

For nearly two decades now, the lab has produced internationally leading research. We collaborate internationally with MIT, NASA JPL, ESA, Harvard, UW and others, and nationally with Oxford, Imperial, UCL, NHS and others. The lab has attracted funding worth £4.6M in the last 5 years.

Thanks to this, it has grown to become one of the four pillars of the University of Essex School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, which is in itself one of the largest in the UK.

Research interests and expertise

Our research includes both Non-invasive Brain-computer interfaces and Invasive neural interfaces. We also work on Neural prostheses and Neuromuscular electrical stimulation, Rehabilitation engineering, Biomedical signal analysis, and Computational neuroscience.

We research Sensorimotor neurophysiology and develop Mathematical models of muscles nerves, and neural signals. We apply machine learning to biomedical signals to study bio-signals such as Event-Related Potentials (ERPs). We also study implanted cuff electrodes and EMG for to build prostheses for hand amputees.

We study brain connectivity analysis in the EEG, fNIRS, and fMRI as well as motor learning, motor control and perception. We also research integration of brain stimulation with BCI to provide novel therapies.

Other areas of research include: multi-sensory BCIs, collaborative forms of BCI, brainwave entrainment and its benefits in Parkinson’s disease,  BCIs for neuro-rehabilitation, technologies to restore sensory feedback in assistive devices, brain-to-brain communication, semantic BCIs, fatigue detection and learning. Finally, we are regular entrants in the Cybathlon competition.

A particularly successful direction for our recent research is developing Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) for decision-making. We collect neural, physiological and behavioural data of individuals performing decision making tasks, which are used by our BCIs to improve individual and group performance in decision-making.  We are also exploring ways of making the BCI technology we develop usable in real-life decision making and have being awarded funding for this.

Our BCI team includes academics, research officers, and postgraduate students.)
Our BCI team includes academics, research officers, and postgraduate students.

BCI-NE group members

The lab is a shared resource available to the members of the BCI-NE group. Group members include five professors and nine lecturers whose primary group is BCI-NE and a larger group of people whose primary group is one of the other three groups in CSEE. In addition, we have many post-doctoral researchers and PhD students within the group.

BEng in Neural Engineering with Psychology

We have recently created an exciting BEng Neural Engineering with Psychology course which is the first of its kind in Europe, and one of the very first in the world. Our BEng Neural Engineering with Psychology covers: brain-computer interfaces, the analysis and classification of neural signals, neuroimaging and brain stimulation technologies, brain and behaviour, the neuroscience of human nature, machine learning, and much more.

The course equips students with the knowledge and skills to be leaders in the development of novel technologies and applications for the rapidly developing and innovative neural engineering industry and as well as the well-established biomedical, electronic and software engineering.

Funded Research Projects

Our lab is involved in several projects. Two examples of these include:

Members of the BCI lab at the Cybathlon competition in Switzerland.)
Members of the BCI lab at the Cybathlon competition in Switzerland.
Get in touch
Professor Riccardo Poli Co-Director
Professor Reinhold Scherer Co-Director