Faculty Profile: John Donoghue, PHD, MS

John Donoghue
John Donoghue, PHD, MS
Professor of Neuroscience
Work: +1 401-863-2701
Our laboratory investigates how the brain turns thought into voluntary behaviors and how that knowledge can be used to help persons with paralysis. We study how populations of neurons represent and transform information as a motor plan becomes movement. This approach has required the creation of a novel recording array to study neural ensembles. With the knowledge we have gained about movement representation, we have translated our findings to a clinical application in which humans with paralysis can use their neurons directly to control devices.



Research Description

Donoghue's laboratory builds on pioneering research in neurotechnology. Brown, which has established a team of internationally recognized scientists and engineers in this emerging field, seeks to develop brain machine interfaces that can restore independence to paralyzed humans and potentially augment human capabilities.

Spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and related nervous system diseases are disabling disorders of movement that currently affect millions of people in the United States. Donoghue's lab investigates how the brain turns thought into voluntary behaviors. At the core of this problem is understanding higher level neural coding — or how populations of neurons represent complex information. To study neural coding, scientists in the lab are developing novel multielectrode recording arrays suitable for chronic implantation in the cerebral cortex. The lab is using these multielectrode arrays to examine the coding of goal-directed reaching by ensembles of cerebral cortical neurons and to examine how ensembles change when a new motor skill is learned.

The laboratory works closely with several other Brown Brain Science faculty members to develop and test theories of higher order representation and to generate new mathematical tools to examine neural codes. Brain Science faculty also are applying the laboratory's knowledge of neural codes for movement to build brain computer interfaces. These devices can potentially be used as a neural prosthetic to restore movement to paralyzed humans. Along with a synergy of talent from the departments of Neuroscience, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and the Medical School, Donoghue's laboratory recently demonstrated the neurotechnology of these devices in landmark proof of concept experiments (Nature 2002). Using this innovative technology, nonhuman primates (monkeys) were able to play videogames directly through brain outputs. The signals are retrieved by unique microelectronic circuitry, and decoded by advanced mathematical and computational techniques. Technologies enable neural signals from a normal brain to bypass injured or diseased spinal cord, nerves, or muscle to provide a new output that can control artificial limbs, robotic equipment, or even the patient's own muscles. The devices can potentially be applied to remote control of computer interfaces or semiautonomous air or sea craft. With colleagues, Donoghue formed a new company (Cyberkinetics, Inc.) that will use tiny arrays of electrodes to capture the information encoded in the firing patterns of populations of neurons to control a computer and thence any device that can be computer controlled.

Grants and Awards

Fellowships and Awards:
2010 "Pioneer in Medicine" Award International Brain Mapping Society
2009 "In Praise of Medicine" Award Erasmus University Rotterdam
2007 K.J. Zülch Prize (Max Planck/Reemstma Foundation)
Javitts Award (NINDS 2002)
Henry Merritt Wriston Professorship
Fellow AIMBE
Fellow AAAS
March of Dimes Foundation, Basil O'Connor Fellowship
International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) 1999 travel award for World Congress of Neuroscience
Faculty of International School of Neuroscience
Grass Foundation Traveling Lecturer (University of Rochester, 2000)
Public Health Service Traineeship in the Anatomical Sciences (Graduate training)
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellowship
Discover Award for Innovation (DIscover Magazine)
Gold Electrode Award: Neurotechnology Researcher of the Year. Neurotechnology Reports, 2004
Popular Mechanics 2005 Breakthrough Award
Nominee, 2005 World Technology Award in the category of Health and Medicine
Wired Magazine, Biggest Discoveries of 2005


Society for Neuroscience
American Association of Anatomists
American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fellow)
International Brain Research Organizations
New York Academy of Sciences
The American Physiological Society
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Neural Control of Movement
History of Neuroscience
Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Neurobiology Chairpersons
American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (Fellow)

Funded Research

Ongoing Research Support

R01 NS25074
PI: John P. Donoghue
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) - "Static and Dynamic Organization of Primate Motor Cortex"
Annual Direct Costs: $250,000; Effort 11.1%
Description: This project uses multichannel recordings in monkeys to examine the role of neural population codes in forming higher level representations in motor cortex.

Veterans Health Administration
Co-PI: John Donoghue; PI: Roy Aaron
"Rebuilding, Regenerating and Restoring Function After Traumatic Limb Loss"
Annual Direct Cost: $94,000; Effort 1%
Description: This project addresses the rebuilding, regeneratin and restoring function after traumatic limb

Selected Publications

  • Donoghue, JP (2008) Bridging the Brain to the World: A Perspective on Neural Interface Systems John P. Neuron 60, pp. 511-521, 2008. (2008)
  • Wu, W., Gao, Y., Bienenstock, E., Donoghue, J. P., Black, M.J. (2006) Bayesian population decoding of motor cortical activity using a Kalman filter Neural Computation: 2006; 18(1):80-118. PDF (2006)
  • Kim, S.-P., Wood, F., Fellows, M., Donoghue, J. P., Black, M. J. (2006) Statistical analysis of the non-stationarity of neural population codes. BioRob 2006, The first IEEE/RAS-EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, 295-299, Piza, Italy, February 2006. PDF (2006)
  • Kübler, A., Mushahwar, V. K., Hochberg, L. R., and Donoghue, J. P. (2006) BCI Meeting 2005--Workshop on Clinical Issues and Applications. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 2006 June, 14(2): 131-134. PDF (2006)
  • Truccolo, W. & Donoghue, J.P., (2006) Non-Parametric Modeling of Neural Point Processes via Stochastic Gradient Boosting Regression. Neural Computation, in press. (2006)
  • Hochberg, L.R., Serruya, M.D, Friehs, G.M, Mukand, J.A., Saleh, M, Caplan, A.H., Branner, A., Chen, D., Penn, R.D., and Donoghue, J.P. (2006) Neuronal ensemble control of prosthetic devices by a human with tetraplegia. Nature, 442, 164-171 (13 July 2006) Nature issue: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7099/index.html Web Focus on Brain-Machine Interfaces: http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/brain/index.html (2006)
  • Shoham, S., Paninski, L.M., Fellows, M.R., Hatsopoulos, N.G., Donoghue, J.P., Normann, R.A. (2005). Statistical Encoding Model for a Primary Motor Cortical Brain-Machine Interface. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 52(7): 1312-1322. PDF (2005)
  • Suner, S., Fellows, M. R., Vargas-Irwin, C., Nakata, G. K., Donoghue, J. P. (2005) Reliability of signals from a chronically implanted, silicon-based electrode array in non-human primate primary motor cortex. IEEE Transactions in Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, vol. 13, No. 4, 524-541. PDF (2005)
  • Paninski, L., Fellows, M.R., Hatsopoulos, N.G., and Donoghue, J.P. (2004) Spatiotemporal tuning of motor cortical neurons for hand position and velocity. Journal of Neurophysiology 91(1): 515-32. (2004)
  • Donoghue, J. P., Nurmikko, A., Friehs, G., and Black, M., J. (2004) Chapter 63. Development of a neuromotor prosthesis for humans, in Advances in Clinical Neurophysiology,Supplements to Clinical Neurophysiology, Vol. 57, [Proceedings of the 27th International Congress of Clinical Neurophysiology, AAEM 50th Anniversary and the 57th Annual Meeting of the ACNS Joint Meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA, 15-20 September 2003] M. Hallett, L.H. Phillips II, D.L. Schomer, J.M. Massey, Eds., pp.588-602. PDF (2004)
  • Friehs, G. M., Zerris, V. A., Ojakangas, C. L., Fellows, M. R., Donoghue, J. P. (2004) Brain-machine and brain-computer interfaces. Stroke 2004 November; 35(11 Supplement 1); 2702-2705. Epub 2004 Oct 14. Review. (2004)
  • Song, Y. K., Patterson, W. R., Bull, C. W., Beals, J., Hwang, N., Deangelis, A. P., Lay, C., McKay, J. L., Nurmikko, A. V., Fellows, M. R., Simeral, J. D., Donoghue, J. P., Connors, B. W. (2004) Development of a chipscale integrated microelectrode/microelectronic device for brain implantable neuroengineering applications. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 2005 June; 13(2): 220-226. (2004)
  • Serruya MD, Donoghue JP. (2003) Chapter III: Design Principles of a Neuromotor Prosthetic Device in Neuroprosthetics: Theory and Practice, ed. Kenneth W. Horch, Gurpreet S. Dhillon. Imperial College Press. pages 1158-1196. PDF (2003)
  • Serruya, M., Hatsopoulos, N. Fellows, M. Paninski, L, and Donoghue, J. (2003) Robustness of neuroprosthetic decoding algorithms. Biological Cybernetics 88 (3): 219-228 March 2003. Springerlink to PDF The original publication is available at http://link.springer-ny.com. (2003)
  • Serruya, M.D., Hatsopoulos, N.G., Paninski, L., Fellows, M.R., and Donoghue, J.P. (2002) Instant neural control of a movement signal. Nature 416:141-2. PDF (2002)
  • Donoghue, J.P. (2002) Connecting cortex to machines: recent advances in brain interfaces. Nature Neuroscience Supplement, November 2002. 5:1085-8. PDF (2002)
  • Oram, M.W., Hatsopoulos, N.G., Richmond, B.J., and Donoghue, J.P. (2001) Excess synchrony in motor cortical neurons provides redundant direction information with that from coarse temporal measures. Journal of Neurophysiology 86(4):1700-16. (2001)
  • Baker, J.T., Donoghue, J.P., and Sanes, J.N. (1999) Gaze direction modulates finger movement activation patterns in human cerebral cortex. Journal of Neuroscience. 19(22):10044-52. (1999)