Science on Tap to offer talk on benefits of neural engineering

January 14, 2011

Kevin Otto

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University professor in the growing field of neural engineering will talk about the societal benefits of this area of research on Thursday (Jan. 20) during the next Science on Tap.

Kevin Otto, a professor of biological sciences and biomedical engineering and director of the Purdue Neuroprostheses Research Laboratory, will speak at 6 p.m. in the upstairs of the Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., in downtown Lafayette. The talk, sponsored by Discovery Park and Purdue's School of Biological Sciences, is free and open to those 21 and older.

"The nervous system is integral for normal human function, and it follows that diseases and injuries of the nervous system result in some of the most devastating disabilities," Otto said. "Neural engineering is driven to find and create treatments and devices to assist these individuals."

A relatively new field, neural engineering is a discipline within biomedical engineering that uses engineering techniques to understand, repair, replace and enhance the properties of neural systems. At Otto's Neuroprostheses Research Laboratory in the Jischke Hall of Biomedical Engineering, scientists and engineers are advancing efforts aimed at utilizing neural engineering approaches to treat neurological disorders.

Otto cited two areas of his research and their societal impact: cochlear implants for the deaf and deep brain stimulation for treating Parkinson's disease and essential tremor.

"Both of these treatments significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with few other options," he said.

While implanted devices are commonly used to help to treat neural disorders, Otto said their limited reliability is prohibiting widespread use. That's why this area of research holds promise, and why Purdue is taking a leadership role.

"With more than a dozen investigators focusing on neuroengineering, Purdue is among the most prominent leaders in this field," he said.

Otto received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Colorado State University and his master's and doctoral degrees in bioengineering from Arizona State University. Before coming to Purdue in March 2006, he served as a research assistant in bioengineering at Arizona State and a research fellow in biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan. His postdoctoral fellowship focused on cochlear implants at the University of Michigan's Kresge Hearing Research Institute in Ann Arbor.

The Science on Tap program, organized by postdoctoral biomedical engineering researchers Kate Stuart and John Paderi, provides Purdue faculty the opportunity to share their research activities in an informal setting and in a way that is designed to appeal to a more general audience.

Writer:   Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,  

Sources:   Kevin Otto, 765-496-1012,

                    Kate Stuart, 765-496-1460,  

                    John Paderi, 765-496-1460,

Related web site:

Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering