At the conference, participants were divided into interdisciplinary working groups. The groups spent eight hours over three days exploring diverse challenges at the interface between science, engineering, and medicine. The composition of the groups were intentionally diverse, to encourage the generation of new approaches by combining a range of different types of contributions. The groups included researchers from science, engineering, and medicine, as well as representatives from private and public funding agencies, universities, businesses, journals, and the science media. Researchers represented a wide range of experience -- from postdoc to those well-established in their careers -- from a variety of disciplines that included orthopedic surgery, mechanical science and engineering, physical medicine and rehabilitation, biology, materials science, biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, chemistry, neuroscience, pharmacology, anatomy, robotics, genetics, and physics.
The groups needed to address the challenge of communicating and working together from a diversity of expertise and perspectives, as they attempted to solve a complicated, interdisciplinary problem in a relatively short time. Each group decided on its own structure and approach to tackle the problem. Some groups decided to refine or redefine their problems, based on their experience.
Each group presented two brief reports to the whole conference: (1) an interim report on Friday to debrief on how things are going, along with any special requests (such as an expert in neural stimulation) ; and (2) a final briefing on Saturday where each group:
- Provided a concise statement of the problem
- Outlined a structure for its solution
- Identified the most important gaps in science and technology and recommended research areas needed to attack the problem
- Indicated the benefits to society if the problem could be solved
Each task group included a graduate student in a university science writing program. Based on the group interaction and the final briefings, the students wrote the following summaries, which were reviewed by the group members. These summaries describe the problem and outline the approach taken, including what research needs to be done to understand the fundamental science behind the challenge, the proposed plan for engineering the application, the reasoning that went into it and the benefits to society of the problem solution.
Task Group Descriptions and Summaries
Describe a framework for replacing damaged cortical tissue and fostering circuit integration to restore neurological function.
Build a prosthesis that will grow with a child (such as a heart valve or cerebral shunt, or a self healing prosthesis).
Develop a smart prosthetic that can learn better and/or faster.
Brain interfacing with materials: recording and stimulation electrodes.
(Due to the popularity of this topic, two groups were run - both summaries are included in this document).
Refine technologies to create active orthotic devices.
Structural tissue interfaces: Enabling and enhancing continual maintenance and adaptation to mechanical and biologic factors.
Sensory restoration of perception of limb movement and contact.
Design a functional tissue prosthesis.
Create hybrid prostheses that exploit activity-dependent processes.
Can brain control guide or refine limb control?