top of page

Carlos Vargas-Irwin, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Brown University

Carlos Vargas-Irwin's long-term research goal is to understand how networks of neurons represent and transform information. In order to address this issue, he has focused on the relationship between the activity of cortical neurons and the control of upper limb motion. Movements that involve the simultaneous and partially independent control of multiple degrees of freedom are a concrete, measurable, representation of the high-dimensional output of the nervous system. Relating these complex movement measurements to the activity of hundreds of simultaneously recorded cortical neurons provides a unique perspective on biological data processing. One of his main projects has been the development of mathematical ‘neural decoder’ models capable of reconstructing the movement of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and digits based solely on neural activity. Another project involves examining how the flow of visual information into motor cortex shapes motor plans for grasping based on the properties of the target. Using these kinds of data, he has developed novel algorithms for automated data-driven pattern recognition. I have also worked on the development of automated algorithms for large-scale electrophysiological data processing (identifying the number of neurons recorded by a given electrode and assigning each spike to the correct neuron of origin – a.k.a. spike sorting). The software generated for these projects has been openly shared with the neuroscience community at large, resulting in multiple ongoing collaborations. The results of this research not only contribute to our understanding of the nervous system, but also aid in the development of brain-controlled neuroprosthetic assistive devices. My ongoing collaboration with the BrainGate clinical trial has allowed me to directly apply the results of my research in a clinical setting. He has also contributed to mentoring graduate students in various departments and collaborated on the development of online courses at Brown. He plans to further develop his role as a mentor and instructor, harnessing new technologies to expand current educational environments.

bottom of page