School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Neuro-prosthesis Lab

Neuro-Prosthesis Lab


The Neuroprosthesis lab is part of the µSystems group at the school of Electrical Electronic and Computer Engineering, Newcastle.

It's primary interest in developing neural stimulators and state of the art implantable systems for the new field of optogenetic neuroprosthesis.

Along the way, we hope to both generate new understanding in core neurobiology and use neuroinspired designs to make better circuits and systems.

Our key interests

Optoelectronic Visual Prosthesis: For individuals whose sight has deteriorated to the extent that there is no longer any functional vision, we are investigating a revolutionary form of optoelectronic/optogenetic prosthesis method for returning vision.

Augmented Vision: is a method whereby we maximize the information throughput from the eye to the visual cortex by pre-filtering the visual scene and feeding this back to the patient through virtual reality headwear. This will be important for the retinal prosthesis itself, but can also provide benefit to those with partial visual loss.

Implantable Optogenetic Prosthesis: Optogenetics - the optical stimulation of neuron cells is a revolution in how we communicate with the nervous system. A great many forms of therapeutic prosthesis are now possible that were previously not feasible. We hope to develop some of the key optoelectronics in this field

Neuro-Inspired optoelectronics: When developing low power optoelectronics for implantable applications, maintaining efficient power consumption is critical. Through evolution, nature has already created many extremely efficient designs that we can use as blueprints for hard semiconductor equivalents.

Collaborating labs

Dr Neil, Dept. Physics, Imperial College, Photonic systems
Dr Botond Roska, FMI, Basel, Retinal Prosthesis
Prof. Ernst Bamberg, Max Planck Institute, Germany
LDr Pleun Maaskant, Tyndall Institute, Cork, Ireland
Scientifica Ltd, Maidenhead, UK
Ms Susan Downes, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, Opthalmology
Mr Richard Cheongleen, Western Eye Hospital, London
Dr. Ivo Lieberam, Kings College, London, Developmental Neurobiology


The Neuroprosthesis lab has its primary interest in developing state of the art implantable systems. Along the way we hope to better understand neural tissue we aim to stimulate.


Neuroprosthesis Lab

E4.02, Merz Court, School of EEE

Our Neuroprosthesis lab has facilities for electronic development and testing. It is open to Research Associates, PhD students and undergraduate/MSc level project students. It includes the latest source measure units, oscilloscopes, soldering and PCB prototyping facilities. It also contains an augmented reality testing environment with surround screen and emgain, Sony, and vuzix virtual reality headwear.

Electronic Design

Merz Court, School of EEE

We have 5 high power workstations for GPU and CUDA development, online servers with the Cadence design suite for advanced CMOS chip design, and the latest Xilinx FPGA's and associated tools for digital logic design. Additionally we have software for PCB and MEMS mask development.

E4.10, Merz Court, School of EEE

The µSystems group and the Emerging Technology and Materials group share a characterisation lab facility which the Neuroprosthesis team has access. This includes multiple probe stations including temperature dependent probe stations and associated supply and recording stations

Device Fabrication Facilities

 CL2, CL4 Merz Court, School of EEE

The School of EEE has two shared clean room facilities: CL1, and CL4 These are class 10,000 with standard chemical processing and photolithography, and associated ovens, hotplates, and exposure systems. The facilities also include reaction ion etching, thermal and electron beam evaporation, rapid thermal processing, plasma cleaning, microscopy, and profilometers.

Knowledge Centre

There are around 300 million people across the world that can be classed legally blind. Of these 150 million are completely without sight and currently there is no effective treatment for many of these persons. Two key restorative approaches which hope to bring back vision are stem cell therapies and neuroprosthesis, both of which are steadily advancing towards useful clinical therapies.

There are around 300 million people across the world that can be classed legally blind. Of these 150 million are completely without sight and currently there is no effective treatment for many of these persons. Two key restorative approaches which hope to bring back vision are stem cell therapies and neuroprosthesis, both of which are steadily advancing towards useful clinical therapies.

Visual cortical prosthesis is not a new concept. Forster first demonstrated phosphene response in the human visual cortex in 1929. This was followed up with the first chronic implant by Brindley and Lewin in 1968, and acute patient trials by Dobelle and Mladejovsky in 1974. However, since then, progress in brain prostheses has been extremely slow. In short, the technology has been too primitive to proceed to clinical therapy.

Then in 1992 a team in California discovered that in Retinitis Pigmentosa the communications cells in the eye stayed largely intact. Retinitis Pigmentosa is a hereditary condition that affects 1:3000 and causes degeneration of the light sensing cells in the eye. For many years it was assumed that the retina simply withered away, but the 1992 discovery opened up the possibility of retinal prosthesis. If there were cells still intact, they could be communicated with by electronic means. As it was much safer and less invasive than visual prosthesis, the field largely focussed on this form of prosthesis for the following few decades.

The efforts have led to two clinically available devices. The Argus2 from 2nd Sight, and the Retina AG implant. Both involve implanting a chip into the retina which stimulate the remaining cells. The vision returned is a blurred tunnel vision with the equivalent of a few 100 pixels of resolution. This can be compared to 2million pixels in an IPad device. They are thus only ‘useful’ to people who are fully dark blind. Patients with these are still legally blind and the level of vision returned is still worse that late stage Retinitis Pigmentosa.

In the pipeline there are more advanced implantable chips which cover a wider area of the visual field. i.e. no longer a tunnel. Other groups are working on an approach which could be used in mid stage Retinitis Pigmentosa which stimulates the periphery while allowing the patient to use their remaining natural sight for the centre. These will probably go to trials in the next 5 years with devices available clinically/commercially in 10-15 years.It should also be noted that further advancements will be made in the future, but damage to the retina is caused during the insertion, so it is not something that can be upgraded on a regular basis like a mobile phone.

Of great potential is the new field of optogenetics. This approach combines a gene therapy approach which genetically re-engineers one of the remaining layers in the eye to be light sensitive. A special pair of goggles is thenworn allow the patient to see. This has the potential to bring back near-normal vision, but will some years before it is proved safe and will be brought to market. The key company involved in the commercialisation of this work is Gensight Biologics, based in Paris, who aim to start human trials in the near future.

It should be noted that retinal prosthesis can really only help those with Retinitis Pigmentosa. For the vast majority of fully blind individuals the most relevant prosthetic device would be a visual cortical prosthesis. The Cortivis project has led efforts in this to date, but future optogenetic therapies could prove to be the breakthrough needed to truly bring it to patients.


Journal papers 

  • John Barrett, Rolando Berlinguer-Palmini, Patrick Deganaar Optogenetic approaches to retinal Prosthesis Visual Neuroscience, Vol 31 (4,5), 2014.
  • Kardoulaki EM, Glaros KN, Degenaar P, Katsiamis AG, Ip HMD, Drakakis EM. Measured hyperbolic-sine (sinh) CMOS results: A high-order 10 Hz-1 kHz notch filter for 50/60 Hz noise. Microelectronics Journal 2013 44(12), 1268-1277.
  • Nam S, Kim H, Degenaar P, Ha CS, Kim Y. Extremely slow photocurrent response from hemoprotein films in planar diode geometry. Applied Physics Letters 2012, 101, 223701.
  • Parittotokkaporn T, Thomas DGT, Schneider A, Huq E, Davies BL, Degenaar P, Rodriguez-y-Baena F. Microtextured Surfaces for Deep-Brain Stimulation Electrodes: A Biologically Inspired Design to Reduce Lead Migration. World Neurosurgery 2012, 77(3-4), 569-576.
  • Al-Atabany W, McGovern B, Mehran K, Berlinguer-Palmini R, Degenaar P. A processing platform for optoelectronic/optogenetic retinal prosthesis. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering 2011, 1-10.
  • McGovern B, Palmini RB, Grossman N, Drakakis E, Poher V, Neil MAA, Degenaar P. A New Individually Addressable Micro-LED Array for Photogenetic Neural Stimulation. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems 2010, 4(6, part 2), 469-476.
  • Grossman N, Nikolic K, Toumazou C, Degenaar P. Modeling Study of the Light Stimulation of a Neuron Cell With Channelrhodopsin-2 Mutants. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering 2011, 58(6), 1742-1751.
  • Nikolic K, Loizu J, Degenaar P, Toumazou C. A stochastic model of the single photon response in Drosophila photoreceptors. Integrative Biology 2010, 2, 354-370.
  • Al-Atabany WI, Memon MA, Downes SM, Degenaar PA. Designing and testing scene enhancement algorithms for patients with retina degenerative disorders. BioMedical Engineering Online 2010, 9, 27.
  • Al-Atabany W, Tong T, Degenaar P. Improved content aware scene retargeting for retinitis pigmentosa patients. BioMedical Engineering OnLine 2010, 9, 52.
  • Grossman N, Poher V, Grubb MS, Kennedy GT, Nikolic K, McGovern B, Palmini RB, Gong Z, Drakakis EM, Neil MAA, Dawson MD, Burrone J, Degenaar P. Multi-site optical excitation using ChR2 and micro-LED array. Journal of Neural Engineering 2010, 7(1), 016004.
  • Huang Y, Drakakis EM, Degenaar P, Toumazou C. A CMOS image sensor with light-controlled oscillating pixels for an investigative optobionic retinal prosthesis system. Microelectronics Journal 2009, 40(8), 1202-1211.
  • Degenaar P. Elucidating the nervous system with channelrhodopsins. Cell Science Reviews 2009, 6(1), 1-13.
  • Kim H, Degenaar P, Kim Y. Insertion of a cytochrome c protein into a complex lipid monolayer under an electric field. Journal of Physical Chemistry C 2009, 113(32), 14377-14380.
  • Degenaar P, Grossman N, Memon MA, Burrone J, Dawson M, Drakakis E, Neil M, Nikolic K. Optobionic vision: a new genetically enhanced light on retinal prosthesis. Journal of Neural Engineering 2009, 6(3), 035007.
  • Nikolic K, Grossman N, Grubb MS, Burrone J, Toumazou C, Degenaar P. Photocycles of channelrhodopsin-2. Photochemistry and Photobiology2009, 85(1), 400-411.
  • Chen LC, Degenaar P, Bradley DDC. Polymer transfer printing: application to layer coating, pattern definition, and diode dark current blocking. Advanced Materials 2008, 20(9), 1679-1683.
  • Poher V, Grossman N, Kennedy GT, Nikolic K, Zhang HX, Gong Z, Drakakis EM, Gu E, Dawson MD, French PMW, Degenaar P, Neil MAA. Micro-LED arrays: a tool for two-dimensional neuron stimulation. Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 2008, 41(9), 094014.
  • Banks DJ, Degenaar P, Toumazou C. Low-power pulse-width-modulated neuromorphic spiking circuit allowing signed double byte data transfer along a single channel. Electronics Letters 2007, 43(13), 704-706.
  • Nikolic K, Loizu J, Degenaar P, Toumazou C. Noise reduction in analogue computation of Drosophilia photoreceptors. Journal of Computational Electronics 2008, 7(3), 458-461.
  • Degenaar P, Constandinou TG, Toumazou C. Adaptive ON-OFF spiking photoreceptor. Electronics Letters 2006, 42(4), 196-198.
  • Banks DJ, Degenaar P, Toumazou C. Distributed current-mode image processing filters. Electronics Letters 2005, 41(22), 1201-1202.
  • Akagi Y, Hashigasako A, Degenaar P, Iwabuchi S, Hasan Q, Morita Y, Tamiya E. Enzyme-linked sensitive fluorometric imaging of glutamate release from cerebral neurons of chick embryos. Journal of Biochemistry 2003, 134(3), 353-358.
  • Griscom L, Degenaar P, Le Pioufle B, Tamiya E, Fujita H. Cell placement and neural guidance using a three-dimensional microfludic array.Japanese Journal of Applied Physics 2001, 40(9A), 5485-5490.
  • Degenaar P, Le Pioufle B, Griscom L, Tixier A, Akagi Y, Morita Y, Murakami Y, Yokoyama K, Fujita H, Tamiya E. A method for micrometer resolution patterning of primary culture neurons for SPM analysis. Journal of Biochemistry 2001, 130(3), 367-376.

Conference papers 

  • Al-Atabany W, Degenaar P. Scene Optimization for Optogenetic Retinal Prosthesis. In: IEEE Conference on Biomedical Circuits and Systems.2011, San Diego, California, USA: IEEE.
  • McGovern B, Drakakis EM, Neil N, O'Brian P, Corbett B, Berlinguer-Palmini R, Degenaar P. Individually addressable optoelectronic arrays for optogenetic neural stimulation. In: IEEE Conference on Biomedical Circuits and Systems. 2011, San Diego, California, USA: IEEE.
  • Parittotokkaporn T, Frasson L, Schneider A, Davies BL, Degenaar P, Rodriguez-y-Baena F. Insertion experiments of a biologically inspired microtextured and multi-part probe based on reciprocal motion. In: IEEE International Conference of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC). 2010, Buenos Aires, Argentina: IEEE.
  • Grossman N, Nikolic K, Poher V, McGovern B, Drankasis E, Neil M, Toumazou C, Degenaar P. Photostimulator for optogenetic retinal prosthesis.In: 4th International IEEE/EMBS Conference on Neural Engineering (NER '09). 2009, Antalya, Turkey: IEEE.
  • Degenaar P, Grossman N, Berlinguer-Palmini R, McGovern B, Pohrer V, Drakakis E, Dawson M, Toumazou C, Burrone J, Nikolic K, Neil M.Optoelectronic microarrays for retinal prosthesis. In: IEEE Conference on Biomedical Circuits and Systems. BioCAS 2009. 2009, Beijing: IEEE Xplore.
  • Parittotokkaporn T, Frasson L, Schneider A, Huq SE, Davies BL, Degenaar P, Biesenack J, Rodriguez y Baena FM. Soft tissue traversal with zero net force: Feasibility study of a biologically inspired design based on reciprocal motion. In: 2008 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO). 2009, Bangkok, Thailand: IEEE.
  • Huang Y, Drakakis EM, Toumazou C, Degenaar P. A CMOS image sensor with spiking pixels for retinal stimulation. In: IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS). 2008, Seattle, WA:
  • Atabany W, Degenaar P. A robust edge enhancement approach for low vision patients using scene simplification. In: Cairo International Biomedical Engineering Conference (CIBEC 2008). 2008, Cairo, Egypt.
  • Frasson L, Parittotokkaporn T, Schneider A, Davies BL, Vincent JFV, Huq SE, Degenaar P, Rodriguez y Baena FM. Biologically inspired microtexturing: Investigation into the surface topography of next-generation neurosurgical probes. In: 30th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS 2008). 2008, Vancouver, Canada: IEEE.
  • Atabany W, Degenaar P. Parallelism to reduce power consumption on FPGA spatiotemporal image processing. In: IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS). 2008, Seattle, WA:
  • Banks D, Degenaar P, Toumazou C. A bio-inspired adaptive retinal processing neuron with multiplexed spiking outputs. In: IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS). 2007, New Orleans, LA.
  • Nikolic K, Grossman N, Yan H, Drakakis E, Toumazou C, Degenaar P. A non-invasive retinal prosthesis - testing the concept. In: 29th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS 2008). 2007, Lyon, France
  • Constandinou TG, Degenaar P, Toumazou C. An adaptable foveating vision chip. In: IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS 2006). 2006, Kos, Greece:
  • Huang y, Drakakis EM, Toumazou C, Nikolic K, Degenaar P. An optoelectronic platform for retinal prosthesis. In: IEEE Conference on Biomedical Circuits and Systems. 2006, London, UK:
  • Nikolic K, Degenaar P, Toumazou C. Modeling and engineering aspects of ChannelRhodopsin2 system for neural photostimulation. In: 28th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology (EMBS). 2006, New York, NY: IEEE.
  • Gamez MA, Degenaar P. Reducing collision noise in asynchronous vision chips. In: 49th IEEE International Midwest Symposium on Circuits and Systems (MWSCAS '06). 2006, San Juan, PR:
  • Constandinou T, Degenaar P, Bradley D, Toumazou C. An on/off spiking photoreceptor for adaptive ultrafast/ultrawide dynamic range vision chips. In: 2004 IEEE International Workshop on Biomedical Circuits and Systems. 2004, Singapore
  • Griscom L, Degenaar P, Denoual M, Morin F. Culturing of neurons in microfludic arrays. In: 2nd Annual International IEEE-EMBS Special Topic Conference on Microtechnologies in Medicine and Biology. 2002, Madison, WI:
  • Al-Atabany W, Memon M, Downes S, Degenaar P. Vision Improvement for Patients with Retinal Degeneration. In: The Seventh IASTED International Conference on Biomedical Engineering (BioMed). 2010, Innsbruck, Austria
  • Griscom L, Degenaar P, Le Pioufle B, Tamiya E, Fujita H. Techniques for patterning and guidance of primary culture neurons on micro-electrode arrays. Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 2002, 83(1-3), 15-21.
  • Griscom L, Degenaar P, Le Pioufle B, Tamiya E, Fujita H. Soft lithographic techniques for guidance of hippocampal neurons on micro-electrode arrays. In: 11th International Conference on Solid-State Sensors and Actuators. 2001, Munich, Germany: Springer-Verlag.
  • Degenaar P, Murakami Y, Yokoyama K, Tamiya E, Le Pioufle B, Fujita Y. Near-field imaging of neurotransmitter release and uptake in patterned neuron networks. In: 2nd Conference on Scanning and Force Microscopies for Biomedical Applications. 2000, San Jose, CA: Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE).


  • Degenaar P, Banks D. Analog Retinomorphic Circuitry to Perform Retinal and Retinal Inspired Processing. In: Bharath, Anil and Petrou, Maria, ed. Next Generation Artificial Vision Systems: Reverse Engineering the Human Visual System. Boston: Artech House, 2008, pp.289-333.
  • Degenaar P, Nikolic K, Banks D, Chen L. Organic semiconductor photoreceptors to mimic human rods and cones. In: Bharath, Anil and Petrou, Maria, ed. Next Generation Artificial Vision Systems: Reverse Engineering the Human Visual System. Boston: Artech House, 2008.
  • Degenaar P, Tamiya E. Near-field optics in biology. In: Fujita, Hiroyuki, ed. Micromachines as Tools for Nanotechnology. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2003, pp.83-120.
  • Yanagida T, Tamiya E, Muramatsu H, Degenaar P, Ishii Y, Sako Y, Saito K, Ohta-Iino S, Ogawa S, Marriott G, Kusumi A, Tatsumi H. Near-field microscopy for biomolecular systems. In: Kawata, S; Ohtsu, M; Irie, M, ed. Nano-Optics. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2002, pp.191-236.



We heartily thank the following entities for their support and concern about curing the blindness through their funding.

Prior Funding

2013-2013 EPSRC Equipment award 
2012-2013 eFuture XD
2012-2013 EPSRC Nanotechnology Sandpit 
2011-2012 EPSRC Knowledge Transfer account 
2011-2011 Human Plus award 
2010-2011 Foundation Thierri Latran 
2009-2010 The RSE/BBSRC for funding Dr Grossman's Enterprize fellowship 
2008-2011 The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (F021127) 
2008-2011 The Engineering and Physical Research Council ( EP/F029241/1) 
2007-2010 The Egyptian Government for funding Dr Al Atabany's PhD studies 
2007-2011 The Thai government for funding Dr Parittokoporn's PhD studies 
2006-2007 Royal Society Research fund 
2005-2008 University of London Central Research Fund (AR/CRF/B) 
2005-2007 Advance Nanotech 
2005-2010 RCUK for funding Dr Degenaar's RCUK Academic Fellowship (EP/E500641/1) 
1997-2001 Monbugakusho for funding Dr Degenaar's PhD studies in Japan 

Current funding 

2014–2021 EPSRC/Wellcome Trust – CANDO
2013-2015 Newcastle BMRC
2013-2015 Macular Disease Society
2010-2014 European commission - OptoNeuro FP7 project (

International PhD scholarship funding

2013-2015 European commission – Erasmus Mundus student exchange 
2012-2015 China CSC – Hubin Zhao 
2012-2015 Jordan University – Musa Al Yaman 
2012-2015 Iraqi Government – Nabeel Fattah 
2007-2010 Thai Government – Tassanai Parritokoporn 
2007-2010 Egyptian Government – Walid Al Atabany 


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School of EEE, Newcastle University
Merz Court
Newcastle upon Tyne
United Kingdom

Dr. Patrick Degenaar: (Principle Investigator)

Ms Andrea Dunn: (EU project manager)

Ms Gill Webber: (Secretary)