John Donoghue, Ph.D.

Nobel Conference 47

Henry Merritt Wriston Professor, Department of Neuroscience, and Director, Institute for Brain Science, Brown University, Providence, R.I.

For more than 20 years John Donoghue has conducted research on brain-computer interfaces, and his laboratory is internationally recognized as a leader in this field. His research investigates fundamental and translational aspects of cortical information processing that lead to skilled motor behavior and the way ensembles of neurons represent and transform information through their interactions within local regions and between the primary motor cortex and its major cortical input areas. His work helps to explain how networks of neurons compute motor actions and transform sensory and internal plans into specific movements of the limbs. One of the most significant breakthroughs in the field of neural interface systems occurred when Donoghue’s group restored the ability of a quadriplegic patient to operate computer cursors and robotic arms by imagining the movement.

A graduate of Boston University (A.B. in biology, 1972), Donoghue earned an M.S. in anatomy from the University of Vermont, Burlington (1976), and completed a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brown University, Providence, R.I. (1979). Following a year as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at Michigan State University, East Lansing, and four as a staff fellow at NIMH, Bethesda, Md., he returned in 1984 to Brown University, where he is now director of the Institute for Brain Science and Henry Merritt Wriston Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, a department he founded in 1991 and chaired from 1992 through 2006. In 2008 he also accepted an appointment as professor of engineering.

Donoghue has published more than 80 scientific articles in leading journals including Nature and Science and has served on advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and NASA. He has won awards from Discover, Popular Mechanics, and Reader’s Digest magazines for his work.