Byron Yu Visits Portugal to Strengthen Research Collaboration on Neuroscience

Byron Yu Byron Yu, an assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, visited Portugal at the end of 2012. The goal was twofold: to meet with several faculty members of Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (IST/UTL), and to establish a co-advising relationship for João Semedo, a dual degree doctoral student in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), who started his doctoral program recently. 

Byron Yu is co-supervising João Semedo along with Christian Machens, from the Champalimaud Foundation, and João Paulo Costeira, from IST/UNL. The research work of this doctoral student has just begun, but Byron Yu expects that the supervision from these three different institutions, focused on different areas of expertise, will provide the student with a particular approach to his research on neurosciences. “We are expecting that the three-way collaboration between IST/UTL, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Champalimaud Foundation will provide João Semedo with a unique training experience and allow us to make research advances that leverage the strengths of each institution,” stated Byron Yu adding that “the Champalimaud Foundation houses world-class research in experimental and theoretical neuroscience.”

While in Portugal, the researcher also gave a talk about his group's work - the Neural Signal Processing Group - that focuses on the intersection of signal processing/machine learning, biomedical engineering, and basic neuroscience. The research collaboration seeks to elucidate how large populations of neurons process information ranging from encoding sensory stimuli to guiding motor actions.

Byron Yu has been engaged in this research topic since 2001. His main concern is “to understand how neurons in the brain process information.” The researcher has already registered a patent concerning the subject, entitled “Decoding of Neural Signals for Movement Control.” 

The scientific advances on neural signals enable the monitoring of the activity of tens to hundreds of neurons simultaneously. At the moment, the group is aiming to “develop and apply novel signal processing algorithms to elucidate how these neurons work together to encode sensory stimuli and drive motor actions,” Byron Yu said. The work already has a biomedical application, Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI), which “assists paralyzed and disabled patients by translating neural activity into control signals of a prosthetic limb or computer cursor,” he explained.

Byron Yu has been at CMU since 2010. He is affiliated to the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, the Machine Learning Department and the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, where he teaches two courses: Signals and Systems (18-290) and with Neural Signal Processing. Byron Yu is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, and he has written multiple papers and is also the recipient of several fellowships and awards.

March 2013