Avatar, The Matrix, Inception, X-men, Total Recall, Transcendence—these films made a lasting impact among their viewers as they ventured into the captivating realm of brain-computer interfaces, showcasing the myriad possibilities this technology unlocks.

While the concept might have appeared far-fetched in the past, the way things are progressing today suggests that we might actually be experiencing the ‘future’ that was only imagined back then. In fact, we might even have a Cebuana to thank for her role in advancing these innovations through research.

You Might Be Wondering: What is the BCI Award?

Founded in Austria in 2017 and chaired by Christoph Guger and Dean Krusienski, the BCI Award Foundation annually hosts a ceremony to recognize groundbreaking research in the field of brain-computer interfaces. To guarantee scientific objectivity, the organization assembles an independent and international jury composed of world-leading BCI experts who work with invasive and non-invasive brain-computer interfaces and neurotechnology in both research and clinical environments.

Every year, the non-profit organization carefully evaluates submitted projects, choosing 12 to feature in the esteemed BCI State-of-the-Art book (Springer). Outstanding contributors will be recognized with $3,000 for the first prize, $2,000 for the second, and  $1,000 for the third, in addition to the distinction of receiving a Gert Pfurtscheller bread knife.

Meet the Cebuana Who Made it to the World’s Most Innovative Brain-Computer Interface Project

This year, among the top-level research projects submitted from 30 countries, Cebuana neuroscientist D. Blair Jovellar, in collaboration with Pedro Gordon, Paolo Belardinelli, and Ulf Ziemann, earned recognition as part of the Top 12 Nominees for the BCI Awards for their research titled “Memory Enhancement Through Pathway-Selective Real-time Brain State-Dependent Magnetic Stimulation.”

The said research, along with the others, will be presented during the BCI Award Ceremony on October 3, 2023, and will be evaluated on several criteria, including novelty in BCI application, methodological innovation, benefits for potential users, speed and accuracy improvements, real patient or user data, online/real-time functionality, usability enhancements, and novel hardware or software developments.

Deeply interested in optimizing brain stimulation techniques, D. Blair Jovellar is currently doing her PhD under Professor Ulf Ziemann on investigating how to enhance working memory using multi-coil closed-loop Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)—a study that may offer valuable insights into memory enhancement. Through the years, she has authored research papers exploring various aspects of TMS and its interaction with EEG responses, including optimizing sham controls, investigating sensory inputs, and modulating functional connectivity during working memory recall, among other topics.

Besides her research on brain stimulation, she has gained experience in teaching and working with clinical populations, which contributes to her multidimensional approach to solving complex problems, especially in the optimization of neuromodulation technologies, ultimately aimed at improving therapeutic applications.

Like many other neuroscientists, D. Blair Jovellar is dedicated to narrowing the divide between the human mind and technology, with a focus on improving communication and control, particularly for individuals with physical limitations. As we move forward on this research journey, the hope is to see more individuals, particularly Filipinos, engage in BCI studies, igniting thrilling possibilities and paving the way for a more inclusive and promising future.