Advances in nanotechnology, driven by decades of semiconductor manufacturing, allow us to control the size and shape of materials with a resolution that is smaller than an individual brain cell. At this scale, we can precisely tune the properties of materials and devices to sense, manipulate, and control the activity of the nervous system with improved sensitivity, specificity, and biocompatibility. Thus, nanotechnology provides an opportunity to create devices that seamlessly integrate with the body to improve the treatment of neurological disorders and provide better tools to study fundamental neuroscience. In our lab, we investigate electronic, photonic, and magnetic nanotechnologies as a platform for these next-generation neural interfaces.

"Developing Next-generation Brain Sensing Technologies – A Review," J. T. Robinson, E. Pohlmeyer, M. C. Gather
C. Kemere, J. E. Kitching, G. G. Malliaras, A. Marblestone, K. L. Shepard, T. Stieglitz, C. Xie, IEEE Sensors Journal, 19, 10163 (2019). [web]

"Can One Concurrently Record Electrical Spikes from Every Neuron in a Mammalian Brain?" D. Kleinfeld, L. Luan, P. P. Mitra, J. T. Robinson, R. Sarpeshkar, K. Shepard, C. Xie, T. D. Harris," Neuron, 103, 1005 (2019). [web]




Unlike pharmaceutical therapies that distribute small molecules to the entire body, bioelectronic devices can sense and stimulate activity in select nerves or brain regions to improve therapeutic precision and reduce side effects. To create tiny, wireless versions of bioelectronic devices we developing “magnetoelectric” technologies that harvest power and data from magnetic fields that can penetrate deep into the body. These devices are being developed as non-addictive treatments for pain, therapies for mood disorders, and tools for neuroscience research.


"Magnetoelectric materials for miniature, wireless neural stimulation at therapeutic frequencies," A. Wickens, B. W. Avants, N. Verma, E. Lewis, J. C. Chen, A. K. Feldman, S. Dutta, J. Chu, J. O'Malley, M. Beierlein, C. Kemere, J. T. Robinson, Neuron, 107 (4), 631-643. [web]




Magnetic fields can penetrate deep into the brain and body making it possible to remotely interact with deep tissues if we could harness magnetic fields to manipulate cell activity.  To reach this goal we are investigating "Magnetogenetic" technologies that render genetically modified cells sensitive to an externally applied magnetic field. With these approaches, we aim for wireless control of select cells in freely behaving animals, and therapeutic bioelectronic technologies.

"Magnetic entropy as a gating mechanism for magnetogenetic ion channels," G. Duret, S. Polali, E.D. Anderson, A. M. Bell, C. N. Tzouanas, B. W. Avants,  J. T. Robinson, Biophysical Journal, 116 (3), 454-468. [web]




Optical microscopy and stimulation allows researchers to interrogate large numbers of neurons, but in freely moving animals and implanted devices, this approach is often limited by the large size and weight of microscopes. In collaboration with Ashok Veeraraghavan at Rice we are combining integrated nanophotonic elements with computational imaging techniques to develop a new class of flat microscopes that are completely integrated onto a single silicon chip. With these tiny "FlatScopes" we plan to image deeper into the brain and over larger areas than currently possible with conventional microscopy.

"Single-Frame 3D Fluorescence Microscopy with Ultra-Miniature Lensless FlatScope," J. K. Adams,V. Boominathan, B. W. Avants, D. G. Vercosa, R. G. Baraniuk, J. T. Robinson, A. Veeraraghavan, Science Advances Vol. 3, e1701548 (2017). [web]

“Deep imaging in scattering media with single photon selective plane illumination microscopy (SPIM),” K. Pediredla, S. Zhang, B. W. Avants, F. Ye, S. Nagayama, Z. Chen, C. Kemere, J. T. Robinson, and A. Veeraraghavan, J. Biomed. Opt. 0001;21(12):126009 (2016). [web]

"Lensless imaging: a computational renaissance," V. Boominathan, J. K. Adams, M. Salman Asif, B. W. Avants, J. T. Robinson, R. G. Baraniuk, A. C. Sankaranarayanan, A. Veeraraghavan, IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, Vol. 33, 23, (2016). [web]

"NeuroPG: Open source software for optical pattern generation and data acquisition." B. W. Avants, D. B. Murphy, J. A. Dapello, J. T. Robinson,  Front. Neuroeng. 8:1 (2015). [web]




Millimeter-sized invertebrates like C. elegans and Hydra with only a few hundred to a few thousand neurons raise the exciting possibility of completely understanding the relationship between neural activity and behavior.  To this end, we are creating microfabricated experimental chambers that allow us to study many animals in parallel and generate large-number statistics. From these experiments, we can answer fundamental questions about sensory-motor transformations, neural control, and the relationship between neural and behavioral states.


"A microfluidic-induced C. elegans sleep state,"D. L Gonzales, J. Zhou, J. T. Robinson, Nature Comm., 10, 5035 (2019). [web]

"Microfluidics for electrophysiology, imaging, and behavioral analysis of hydra," K. Badhiwala, D. L. Gonzales, D. G. Vercosa, B. W. Avants, J. T. Robinson, Lab on a Chip,  DOI: 10.1039/C8LC00475G (2018). [web]

“Scalable electrophysiology in intact small animals with nanoscale suspended electrode arrays,” D. L. Gonzales, K. N. Badhiwala, D. G. Vercosa, B. W. Avants, W. Zhong, J. T. Robinson, Nature Nanotech. Vol. 12, 684 (2017). [web]