A Neurosurgeon’s Perspective on the Brain–Body–Machine Interface
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
4:00 PM-5:30 PM
"Pardon Me, Is That a Neuroprosthetic You Are Wearing?” A Neurosurgeon’s Perspective on the Brain–Body–Machine Interface
Atom Sarkar, MD, PhD
Global Neurosciences Institute, LLC
Department of Neurosurgery
Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
Drexel University College of Medicine
Drexel Neurosciences Institute
Augmentation of human physiology has been an eternal goal for enhanced performance. Additionally, restoration of function in disease states has equally been pursued to alleviate pain and suffering in those afflicted congenitally, or over the course of a life. Much fuss has been made regarding neural enhancement and its validity as a consumer ready commercial product. This hype has garnered prominent interest in the general public, but more tepid responses in academic circles. During this talk, I hope to lay out the practical applications of neural devices in current clinical practice and outline the challenges that need to be met for hype and future promise to align.
I was born in Calcutta, India and raised in New York City. I have always been a geek. My name, as well as my initial interest in science and medicine stem from my father’s profession as a biophysicist. I recall spending part of my early days in kindergarten and the other part in my father’s lab. At the time my major accomplishment resided in the belief that I could construct an electron microscope, like the one my father utilized, out of tin cans. Later, while in high school, more tangible science goals were realized and culminated in becoming a nationally recognized Westinghouse Science Scholar.
While attending Brown University (Providence, RI) as an undergraduate, summers were spent investigating issues related to viral oncology at various institutions including the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research (Bern, Switzerland), the Rockefeller University (New York, NY), and the University of Georgia (Athens, GA). I received my MD/PhD degrees from the University of Miami School of Medicine (Miami, FL). My PhD dissertation was conducted in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, with a focus on molecular neuroscience. This work culminated in cloning and characterizing neuropeptide receptors from the brain and earned research distinction from the Graduate School. It was at Miami that an interest in neurosurgery was galvanized. A fellowship at Columbia University (New York, NY) in single molecule mechanics, nanotechnology, and instrument design were the focus of my post-doctoral work. This post-doctoral fellowship was performed in the midst of a neurosurgical residency at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN).
My first faculty appointment was at The Ohio State University’s Department of Neurological Surgery as an Assistant Professor and Director of Neurological Nanomedicine; ultimately, I headed the Epilepsy, Tumor and Stereotactic programs at Ohio State University and was Co-Director of the Functional Neurosurgery program there as well. My clinical interests developed into a diverse arena, which includes tumors of the brain and spine, gamma knife stereotactic radiosurgery, functional neurosurgery, as well as complex spinal instrumentation.
I left The Ohio State University for a brief stint at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where I assumed the role of Associate Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery as the Director of Surgical Neuro-Oncology. Additionally, as a member of the Center for Translational Neuroscience, I led the Laboratory of NanoMedicine.
A unique opportunity to join the Geisinger Health System prompted a departure from Little Rock’s humidity for the Susquehanna Valley. As a member of the faculty in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Geisinger Medical Center, I was the Director of Stereotactic and Functional Surgery, as well as the Director for Laboratory for Nanomedicine and Co-Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience & Neuro-Oncology.
The role of science and technology in neurosurgery and neurological disease is central to my investigations and joining the group at Global Neurosciences Institute is key to my move to Philadelphia to meet this ambition. My appointment is at Drexel University College of Medicine where I am a Professor, and jointly appointed to the Department of Neurosurgery, as well as the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology and the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems.
Within the Department of Neurosurgery, I am the Director of Adult and Pediatric Stereotactic, Functional and Epilepsy Surgery, as well as the Director of Neuro Oncology. Uniquely, in conjunction with Drexel ENT colleagues, we have established, and I am the Co-Director of the Philadelphia Voice Tremor Center. In the basic sciences realm at Drexel, with colleagues in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, we have co-founded TRaCES - Translational Research and Core Expert Support. Our studies here will focus on developing human brain models for a wide spectrum of pathologies.
At night I lay awake wondering how to make this all happen….