Blackrock customer stories

Dr. Kazutaka ‘Taka’ Takahashi

Research Associate Assistant Professor
University of Chicago

Taka, as he is most commonly referred to, is a leading researcher at the University of Chicago. He got his start as a PhD student at MIT where he focused on using control and estimation to study cerebro‐cerebellar interaction for motor control. After graduation, he accepted a post‐doctorate fellow position in the Nicho Hatsopolous lab in Chicago.

Today, his research continues to focus on the primary motor and somatosensory cortical areas and their roles in behavior. In addition he studies the dynamic interactions of both spiking activities and local field potentials by implanting multiple arrays and probes on primate and rodent subjects. For Taka, stimulation is a key strength of Blackrock’s products as he experiences shorter latency periods. Another key element that keeps him as a loyal Blackrock customer is the top of the line customer support he receives. Recently, he was interested in the use of multiple stimulation systems, so he emailed Nick Halper, one of Blackrock’s support engineers. To his surprise, he received an immediate response that Blackrock was already working on a solution for customers with his same interest. Taka participates as a beta tester for many of Blackrock’s products, a process which facilitates collaboration and provides the company with insight into the industry’s challenges and opportunities. When asked to describe Blackrock in 10 words or less, Taka responded with one. Reliable.

Dr. Greg Clark

Tenured Associate Professor of Bioengineering
University of Utah

Greg is a veteran Blackrock user; in fact he was one of the first users of the Utah Array, and has enjoyed a close relationship with Dr. Richard Normann, one of its primary inventors for many decades. When Greg first began his research career, there were very few commercially available solutions that would allow an array to communicate with other electronics. That is until the Utah Array was invented. In combination with his close proximity to Blackrock’s headquarters, a partnership that goes far beyond the norm of a business‐customer relationship has developed between Greg and the company.

His research focuses on using peripheral nerve interfaces to restore sensory and motor function, in particular to help restore these processes after spinal cord injury or limb loss. He describes his work as ‘truly transformative to begin to interact with people that can appreciate the sense of having their hand restored again.’ According to Greg, this work would not have been possible without the Blackrock enterprise. “Over the last decade or more Blackrock has played a central role in moving [translational work in the peripheral nervous system] forward from the pre‐translational, clinical work, animal models, to our current work in humans. Blackrock has been an essential part of that enterprise and will continue to be.” When asked to describe Blackrock in 10 words or less, Greg responded by saying: “A company that translates science fiction into fact.” We couldn’t ask for a better compliment!

Dr. Cindy Chestek

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
University of Michigan

Cindy studies brain machine interfaces for the control of multiple degrees of freedom movements, such as finger movements. By combining brain signals and peripheral signal sources we can control prosthetic limbs and try to reanimate paralyzed limbs. Cindy has been a user of Blackrock products since her days as a PhD student and post‐doc in Krisha Shenoy’s lab at Stanford University.

Cindy relies on Blackrock’s electrodes because their quality control standard, which is high enough for use in human implants. With high value research subjects such as primates or humans, products must work and last an absolute minimum of 6 months to a year. Blackrock’s electrodes ‘are one of the best products … for chronic neural recording,’ states Chestek. She also credits Blackrock as a key element in all of her work when saying, “… All of my PhD publications used the Utah Array [because] … they’re all about stability or instability of the signals and in trying to figure out long‐term systems for human use. None of that research would have been possible without the Utah Array.” When asked to describe Blackrock in 10 words or less she responded by saying, “100 electrodes, simultaneous recordings, and layer 5 motor cortex.”

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