Professor
Tim Denison
PhD
RAE Chair in Emerging Technologies
Department of Engineering Science
Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences
Email:
Tel: 01865 617707
College: Green Templeton
Location: Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Old Road Campus Research Building, Oxford OX3 7DQ
Site: Churchill Hospital & Old Road Campus
Research Building: Old Road Campus Research Building

Professor Denison holds a Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies. At Oxford, he explores the fundamentals of physiologic closed-loop systems. Prior to Oxford, Tim was the Vice President of Research & Core Technology for the Restorative Therapies Group of Medtronic, where he helped oversee the design of next generation neural interface and algorithm technologies for the treatment of neurological disorders.

In 2012, he was awarded membership to the Bakken Society, Medtronic’s highest scientific honor, and in 2014 he was awarded the Wallin leadership award (only the second person in Medtronic history to receive both awards). In 2015, he was a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.

Tim received an A.B. in Physics from The University of Chicago, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from MIT. Recently, he completed his MBA as a Wallman Scholar at Booth, The University of Chicago.

He is a Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies for his work on brain engineering.

We are creating a new generation of physiology-inspired devices for restoring functionality to the nervous system. Our team works at the intersection of microelectronics, control systems, systems physiology, and health economics to advance bioelectronic therapies for neurological disorders. Our mission is to design and deploy pioneering instrumentation that enables first-in-human clinical neuroscience. These research instruments also serve as prototypes for therapy translation, enabling an assessment of the risks and economic factors to support successful approval by regulators and adoption by health services. Our work mostly falls within the “technology demonstration” (TRL5 to 6) of technology readiness levels in the NASA framework.

Our vision is to provide pragmatic therapies for intractable conditions such as generalized epilepsy, chronic pain, and disorders of consciousness, and make them available to the UK’s National Health Service and the world.

Our current research falls into three broad themes:

  • “Smart” Implants: improving the efficacy of implantable bioelectronic therapy systems in the central and peripheral nervous system through novel physiologic closed-loop control methods. We are currently supporting four active clinical studies*;
  • Non-invasive therapies: minimising therapy invasiveness through advancing transcranial magnetic stimulation, and probing and modulating brain activity with headsets that enable targeted memory reactivation; and
  • Resource-limited Neurotech: the development of hardware and algorithms for deployment in resource-limited healthcare ecosystems in partnership with universities across the globe.

Researchers interested in joining our laboratory should take a “systems perspective” for tackling problems that are hard, but important. A clinician-partner is involved in every project we undertake.

Technology readiness level (TRL) set by NASA to determine the level of maturity of research and product developments (source: https://www.abaco.com/technology-readiness-level).

The research group is based at the Institute for Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Engineering Science. We maintain connections with many other research groups across Oxford, in the United Kingdom and internationally. Our current collaborations include the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences and the Surgical Intervention Trials Unit in Oxford, Imperial College London, The Surrey Sleep Research Centre, University College London – Great Ormond Street Hospital, King’s College London, and the Mayo Clinic in the USA. We are also founding members of the NIH-funded OpenMind consortium, where we support open-source quality management systems and deployment of first-in-human class 3 devices for the NIH BRAIN initiative. The group carries out this distinct programme of research within the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit at Oxford, where we support translational bioengineering. The lab’s activities are funded by organisations including The Royal Academy of Engineering, DARPA, MRC, NIH, Wellcome Trust, LifeArc, Moulton Trust, and industry collaborators.

* Active and completed clinical trials:

Active:

Efficacy of Pain Intervention With Deep Brain Stimulation Neuromodulation (EPIONE), NCT06387914

Children’s Adaptive Deep Brain Stimulation for Epilepsy Trial (CADET): Pilot (CADET Pilot), NCT05437393

MotIoN aDaptive Deep Brain Stimulation for MSA (MINDS), NCT05197816

Technical advice: Simpler and Safer Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson’s Disease (SPARKS), NCT03837314

Completed:

Manipulating and Optimising Brain Rhythms for Enhancement of Sleep (MORPHEUS),  NCT05011773

Dr Rachel Crockett - Research Staff
Dr John Fleming - Research Staff
Dr Victoria Marks - Research Staff
Dr Joram J. van Rheede - Research Staff
Dr Mayela Zamora - Research Staff

  • Open Mind: A collaboration supporting a bi-directional brain-machine-interface research tool for the BRAIN initiative: https://openmind-consortium.github.io/
  • MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit: Programme leader in translational bioengineering: https://www.mrcbndu.ox.ac.uk/
  • Picostim-DyNeuMo: Research Device and Ecosystem (Implantable, bi-directional, algorithm-enabled neural interface)

  • xTMS: Digital Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation System

As a collaborator for translational work (focus is on deployment of tools for first-in-human and large-animal research):

  • Walking naturally after spinal cord injury using a brain–spine interface, Lorach, H., Galvez, A., Spagnolo, V. et al.Nature 618, 126–133 (2023).
  • Assessment of Safety of a Fully Implanted Endovascular Brain-Computer Interface for Severe Paralysis in 4 Patients: The Stentrode with Thought-Controlled Digital Switch (SWITCH) Study, Mitchell, P., Lee, S.C.M., Yoo, P.E., et al., JAMA Neurol. 2023;80(3):270–278. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.4847
  • Towards network-guided neuromodulation for epilepsy, Piper, R.J., Richardson, M., Worrell, G., Carmichael, D.W., Baldeweg, T., Litt, B., Denison, T., Tisdall, M.M., Brain, 2022.
  • Diurnal modulation of subthalamic beta oscillatory power in Parkinson’s disease patients during deep brain stimulation, van Rheede, J.J., Feldmann, L.K., et. al. (In press, npj Parkinson’s Disease)
  • Activity-dependent spinal cord neuromodulation rapidly restores trunk and leg motor functions after complete paralysis, Rowald, A., Komi, S., Demesmaeker, R. et al.Nat Med 28, 260–271 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-021-01663-5
  • Neuroprosthetic baroreflex controls hemodynamics after spinal cord injury, Courtine, G. et. al., Nature, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-03180-w
  • Motor neuroprosthesis implanted with neurointerventional surgery improves capacity for activities of daily living tasks in severe paralysis: first in-human experience, OxleyTJ, Yoo PE, Rind GS, et al, Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery  doi: 10.1136/neurintsurg-2020-016862
  • Chronic embedded cortico-thalamic closed-loop deep brain stimulation for the treatment of essential tremor, Opri, E. et al., Science Translational Medicine, 2020. doi: 1126/scitranslmed.aay7680
  • Targeted neurotechnology restores walking in humans with spinal cord injury FB Wagner, et. al., Nature 563 (7729), 65-71, 2018. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0649-2
  • Stimulating at the right time: phase-specific deep brain stimulation. Cagnan, H., Pedrosa, et. al., Brain 140, 132-145 (2017).
  • Fully Implanted Brain–Computer Interface in a Locked-In Patient with ALS, Mariska J. Vansteensel, Ph.D., Elmar G.M. Pels, M.Sc., et. al., New England J Medicine, 375:2060-2066, 2016. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1608085

As a lead/senior author for technical work (generation of bioelectronic modules and research tools for translation):

  • Pulse width modulation based TMS: Primary motor cortex responses compared to conventional monophasic stimuli, Memarian Sorkhabi, M., Wendt, K., O’Shea, J., Denison, T, Brain Stimulation, Jul-Aug;15(4) 980-983,
  • Concurrent stimulation and sensing in bi-directional brain interfaces: a multi-site translational experience, Ansó J, Benjaber M, et. al., Journal of Neural Engineering, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1088/1741-2552/ac59a3
  • Embedding digital chronotherapy into bioelectronic medicines, Fleming, J.E., Kremen, V., Gilron, R., Gregg, N.M., Zamora, M., Dijk, D.J., Starr, P.A., Worrell, G.A., Little, S., Denison, T.J., iScience 25(4):104028, 2022.
  • DyNeuMo Mk-1: Design and pilot validation of an investigational motion-adaptive neurostimulator with integrated chronotherapy, Zamora M, Toth R, et al, Experimental Neurology, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.expneurol.2022.113977
  • Chronic wireless streaming of invasive neural recordings at home for circuit discovery and adaptive stimulation, Gilron, R. et. al., Nature Biotechnology, 2021.
    https://doi.org/10.1038/s41587-021-00897-5
  • The sensitivity of ECG contamination to surgical implantation site in brain computer interfaces, Wolf-Julian Neumann, Majid Memarian Sorkhabi, et. al., Brain Stimulation, Volume 14, Issue 5, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brs.2021.08.016,
  • DyNeuMo Mk-2: An Investigational Circadian-Locked Neuromodulator with Responsive Stimulation for Applied Chronobiology, Toth, R. et. al., 2020 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC), 2020. doi: 10.1109/SMC42975.2020.9283187
  • Developing Collaborative Platforms to Advance Neurotechnology and Its Translation, Borton, D.A., Dawes, H.E., Worrell, G.A., Starr, P.A., Denison, T.J., Neuron, 108:2, 2020. doi: 1016/j.neuron.2020.10.001
  • Physiological Artifacts and the Implications for Brain-Machine-Interface Design, Sorkhabi, M. et al, 2020 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC), doi: 10.1109/SMC42975.2020.9283328
  • Programmable Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation- A Modulation Approach for the Generation of Controllable Magnetic Stimuli, Sorkhabi, M. et al, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 2020. doi: 1109/TBME.2020.3024902
  • A Chronically-Implantable Neural Coprocessor for Investigating the Treatment of Neurological Disorders, Stanslaski S et al; IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems, 2019. doi: 10.1109/TBCAS.2018.2880148

We have opportunities for doctoral studies with Prof. Tim Denison in Bioelectronics, Medical Device Design, Physiologic Interfaces and Controls. Please send an email for current positions.

Guidelines on How We Work Together

Mental Mindset: you will go farther in life if you are empathetic to the challenges of those around you. When supporting a protocol, take a mental walk in the research participant’s and family’s shoes to put you in the right frame of mind. It is not all about you, or the lab, or the University.

 “Rules of Engagement” for supporting clinical research:

  1. Be safety and quality-oriented: Always remember that the participants and families are putting their lives in our hands – literally. Our number one responsibility is to ensure their safety in our areas of responsibility and to keep our eyes out for any problems at all times. This means following SOPs and protocols as defined, and keeping our clinician investigators aware of issues arising. We want to be the world leader in implementing standards such as 60601-1-10 to enable a safe “sandbox” for research, and teach what we learn about how to build systems to others.
  2. Be fact-based: Clinicians take an oath to do no harm and they are constantly evaluating risks and benefits for their patients. Our role in this process is to provide transparent communication of the risks and capabilities of our research tools so they can make informed decisions. Remember that we are NOT allowed to practice medicine; all clinical decisions and actions MUST be performed by the assigned clinician per the protocol.
  3. Be trustworthy: Follow your GDPR and privacy training. Be aware of your environment when discussing anything (e.g. on public transport, etc). If you find a problem or mistake, self-report and help fix it – regulators, clinicians and patients might not be happy, but honest exchange ensures trust in the relationship that is vital for clinical research. Avoid spin.
  4. Be humble: Device trials are multi-disciplinary and require collaboration – it is a team sport. When asked for help, provide it. When you need help, ask for it. There is no need for heroics when you can easily resolve the issue with assistance. Remember – we may not know what we do not know! Be curious how others see and solve the problem…
  5. Be solution-oriented: Device trials and clinical neuroscience are very challenging and issues will invariably arise. Don’t just point out faults – think of ways to solve the issues within our constraints, and bring them forward to the team ( …and engage rule 4).
  6. Be self-critical, but open-minded: When looking at new data that is surprising, my personal rule #1 is to assume the observation is an instrument-related artefact. Rule #2 is that once you do prove that it is not an artefact, accept that you might be onto a new discovery! (The gamma entrainment to stimulation in Parkinson’s DBS is my best example of these rules at work.)
  7. Be calm: If you see something during the protocol, in front of a patient and/or family, don’t state “that looks funny…” (or worse, see 8). Make a note of the issue; if safety related, ask to speak to the clinician immediately and take action [e.g. stim off]. If it is a minor software glitch, easily resolvable, just calmly resolve it and note for follow-up reporting and fixing with our partners.
  8. Be professional: Wear smart/business casual clothing when engaging with subjects and families, especially the first time. Engage in a friendly but professional manner. Like it or not, they will initially assess the quality of the research device based on how they assess you.
  9. Be a good ambassador: Remember that in all interactions, you are representing a team of >50 engineers and scientists, including industry partners who have invested more than a decade and many millions to create our research systems. Bring your best self, and acknowledge that behind you stands a large team of dedicated researchers trying to make a difference.
  10. Be a good steward: Oxford has been around for 850 years, and is a top university in the world. We are stewards of this university in 2024, and our actions can impact the reputation of the university – for better or worse. 850 years from now, we want them to believe that our research tool efforts helped changed the world for the better.

Hybrid work policy: The expectation is that you spend >=3 days a week working in the lab or office space unless we have agreed to an alternative arrangement. A critical part of academic research is collaboration and joint problem solving;  co-location helps facilitate these processes.

  • Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrumentation Makers, 2023
  • The Annual BCI Award (team award): 1St Place 2022, 2nd Place 2020
  • IET Awards: Small Idea, Big Impact: Global Challenge for 2020 (OxVent)
  • MRC Investigator, 2020-2025 (MRC Brain Networks Dynamic Unit)
  • Oxford Martin School, Investigator (Global Epilepsy Programme), 2020-2023
  • Senior Research Fellow, Green Templeton College – 2019-
  • Graham Clarke Oration, Melbourne Australia, July 2019.
  • Chair in Emerging Technology, Royal Academy of Engineering, 2018-2028
  • Distinguished Fudan Scholar, 2018
  • Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society, 2018
  • College of Fellows, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers, 2015
  • Global Innovation Fellow, Medtronic programme for chronic disease in Ghana, 2014
  • Medtronic Wallin award, 2014 (Medtronic’s highest leadership recognition)
  • Medtronic Bakken Society, 2012 (Medtronic’s highest scientific award)
  • Medtronic Technical Fellow, 2010
  • Medtronic Technical Contributor of the Year [team], 2008 and [individual], 2006

C23: Introduction to Bioelectronic Medicines and Prosthetics

3YP: Physiologic Control Systems (Project Class)

Watch my taster lecture from the University of Oxford 2023 Open Days to discover more about biomedical engineering and what it is like to be an Engineering Science Undergraduate Student at Oxford.

  • Director: Amber Therapeutics (2021-), Bioinduction Ltd (2023-), Finetech Medical Ltd (2023-)
  • Advisory Board, Cortec Neuro (2022-2025); Non-executive Chairman, MINT Neurotechnologies (2022-)
  • Member, British Standards Institute, 60601-1-10 (Physiologic Control Systems) Committee
  • Chair, Knowledge Transfer Network Neurotechnology Working Group (2019-2021)
  • Royal Society Working Group on Neurotechnology (2018-2023)
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Neural Engineering (2016-present); International Advisory Board, Lancet Digital Health (2020-present)
Bioelectronic Zeitgebers: targeted neuromodulation to re-establish circadian rhythms.
Deli A,  Zamora M,  Fleming JE,  Divanbeighi Zand A,  Benjaber M,  Green AL,  Denison T,  et al. (2024)
Development and validation of a diagnostic aid for convulsive epilepsy in sub-Saharan Africa: a retrospective case-control study
Jones GD,  Kariuki SM,  Ngugi AK,  Mwesige AK,  Masanja H,  Owusu-Agyei S,  Wagner R,  Cross JH,  Sander JW,  Newton CR,  Sen A,  et al. (2023)
Walking naturally after spinal cord injury using a brain–spine interface
Lorach H,  Galvez A,  Spagnolo V,  Denison T,  et al. (2023)