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Neural Prosthesis Development

History of the Program

The NIDCD has supported development of the cochlear implant, a device able to electrically stimulate auditory neurons in profoundly deaf patients, since the inception of the Institute in 1988. A portion of that financial support has come from the award of research contracts to investigators responding to requests for contract proposals (RFPs), as well as the award of the traditional research project grants in response to investigator-initiated applications. The contract-based research program grew from a sustained effort to develop an implantable prosthesis that would operate through direct electrical stimulation of neurons in patients with profound impairments such as blindness, paralysis, or deafness. The principal investigators supported by this set of contracts, collectively known as the Neural Prosthesis Program, were required to attend an annual workshop started in 1971 in order to rapidly disseminate advances and share new techniques across program areas. Quarterly progress reports written by these investigators were made publicly available in order to disseminate information to a wider audience and foster interactions among investigators working on similar projects.

The NIDCD Neural Prosthesis Development program seeks to continue this successful paradigm for the development of new prosthetic devices within the NIDCD mission areas of hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech and language. Future development efforts will include electrical stimulation as well as novel man-machine interfaces that promise improved patient rehabilitation following damage to neural structures that subserve sensory input or muscle control. Sustained research efforts will be necessary to identify and pursue the best avenues for continued neural prosthesis development, and both the contract and grant mechanisms will be important vehicles for the support of this research.

Report Distribution

Quarterly Progress Reports (QPRs) from the NIDCD contracts are made available from this web site in order to maintain rapid and widespread dissemination for some results from this research. However, these reports only describe a portion of the work performed by these investigators and they are not peer-reviewed. Manuscripts published in the primary literature remain the best source of information describing advances in the field which have been critically evaluated and made widely available. Abstracts from published manuscripts can be obtained from the PubMed web site. A summary of research project grants directed toward these topic areas can be obtained by searching the NIH CRISP database for the phrase “neural prosthesis” or other relevant keywords.

Current Funding Opportunities

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are published on the Federal Business Opportunities web site. Go to "Find Business Opportunities" and search for current NIDCD funding opportunities by entering "National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders" in the "Full Text Search" field.

For questions or comments about the NIDCD Neural Prosthesis Development program, contact:

Roger L. Miller, Ph.D.
Program Director
Neural Prosthesis Development
Room 400C, Executive Plaza South
6120 Executive Boulevard, MSC 7180
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-7180
(Phone) 301-402-3458
(Fax) 301-402-6251


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Celebrating 20 years of research: 1988 to 2008