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Steven J. Schiff

My Big 10 Network Debut LOL

New Postdoc Positions for NIH project on experimental epilepsy control LOL


Steven J. Schiff, MD, PhD
Brush Chair Professor of Engineering
(In Memory of Harvey Brush 2019)
Professor of Neurosurgery
Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics
Professor of Physics (Courtesy Appointment)
Associate of Institute for Cyberscience

Founding Director, Penn State Center for Neural Engineering 2007-2019

Honorary Recognized Teacher, University of Liverpool
Honorary Professor, Mbarara University of Science and Technology

W311 Millennium Science Complex
Pollock Road
University Park, PA 16802-2131
(814) 865-2481 Rebecca Benson (Center Administration) rle4 at
(814) 863-4210 Office
Send E-Mail sschiff at

Google Scholar Citations
My Bibliography NCBI

New Paper: Schiff SJ A Surgeon's Woodstock Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons, February 1, 2020.

Recent Paper: Kulkarni AV, Schiff SJ, Mbabazi-Kabachelor E, Mugamba J, Ssenyonga P, Donnelly R, Levenbach J, Monga V, Peterson M, MacDonald M, Cherukuri V, Warf BC. Endoscopic Treatment versus Shunting for Infant Hydrocephalus in Uganda, New England Journal of Medicine, 377:2456-64, 2017. See Quick Take Video Summary

Media Coverage: NPR news, Penn State News, Futurity, Medpage Today, Vector (Boston Children's Hospital), Europa Press (in Spanish)

Recent Paper: Bahari F, Ssentongo P, Schiff SJ, and Gluckman B. A brain-heart biomarker for epileptogenesis. Journal of Neuroscience 27 August 2018, 1130-18.

A readable popular summary of these results can be found here, and also here.

Recent Paper: Obungoloch, J., Harper, J. R., Consevage, S., Savukov, I. M., Neuberger, T., Tadigadapa, S., and Schiff, S. J. (2018). Design of a sustainable prepolarizing magnetic resonance imaging system for infant hydrocephalus. Magnetic Resonance Materials in Physics, Biology and Medicine.
For context, see
ISMRM Plenary Lecture in Paris 2018: "Sustainable Low-field MRI for Point of Care Diagnostics"
Dr Johnes Obungoloch, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda
Netherlands Collaborators

Recent Paper: Whalen AJ, Xiao Y, Kadji H, Dahlem M, Gluckman BJ, Schiff SJ, Control of Spreading Depression with Electrical Fields, Scientific Reports, 8769, 2018.

A readable popular summary of these results can be found here.

Recent Paper: Ssentongo P, Muwanguzi AJB, Eden U, Sauer T, Bwanga G, Kateregga G, Aribo L, Ojara M, Mugerwa WK, Schiff SJ. Changes in Ugandan Climate Rainfall at the Village and Forest Level. Scientific Reports, 3551 (2018).
A readable popular summary of these results can be found here.

Recent Paper: Ssentongo P, Robuccio AE, Thuku G, Sim DG, Nabi A, Bahari F, Shanmugasundaram B, Billard MW, Geronimo A, Short KW, Drew PJ, Baccon J, Weinstein SL, Gilliam FG, Stoute JA, Chinchilli VM, Read AF, Gluckman BJ, Schiff SJ. A Murine Model to Study Epilepsy and SUDEP Induced by Malaria Infection. Scientific Reports 7:43652, 2017.

A readable popular summary of these results can be found here.

Recent Paper: Lother S, Schiff SJ, Neuberger T, Jakoba PM, Fidler F. Design of a mobile, homogeneous and efficient electromagnet with a large field-of-view for neonatal low field MR. Magnetic Resonance Materials in Physics, Biology and Medicine, (2016) 29:691–698.

A readable summary of my work with low field sustainable MRI can be found here.

Worth-a-Read Paper: Whalen AJ, Brennan SN, Sauer TD, Schiff SJ. Observability and Controllability of Nonlinear Networks: The Role of Symmetry. Physical Review X, 5, 011005.

A readable popular summary of these results can be found here.
A Code Archive for this paper is available here.
Video of recent International Workshop on Seizure Prediction (IWSP7) Lecture describing these results.

Worth-a-Read Paper: Wei Y,Ullah G, Schiff SJ. Unification of Neuronal Spikes, Seizures, and Spreading Depression. Journal of Neuroscience, 34:11733-11743, 2014.

A readable description of these results can be found here.
A Code Archive for this paper is available here.
Video of recent Fields Institute Lecture describing these results.
Video of recent talk at Festschrift for Jack Cowan at Banff International Research Station.

My book was published in 2012: Neural Control Engineering, The MIT Press

Physics Today Book Review December 2012 by Jack Cowan
Amazon Reviews Amazon Amazon Kindle Edition
MIT Press MIT Press eBook A Matlab Book:The Mathworks Google Books Preview
Errata Lecture Slides Code Archive

House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights hearings August 2, 2011
Hearing Book Congressional Hearing Book with Testimony on Hydrocephalus from the Congressional Record at the US Government Printing Office.
CSPAN Coverage of Hydrocephalus Hearings August 2, 2011CSPAN Coverage of Hydrocephalus Hearings August 2, 2011

Recent journal covers:

Journal of Neurosurgery 2015 Volumetric brain analysis in neurosurgery: Part 1 Part 2Part 3
mandell_et_al_dynamics_brain_csf_fluid_growth_j_neurosurgery_2010_cover.jpg article li_et_al_association_of_bacteria_with_hydrocephalus_in_ugandan_infants_j_neurosurg_peds_2011_cover.jpg articlearticle

News Articles:

See my 2019Big 10 Network Debut

See 2019In Memory of Harvey Brush 2019

See 2018 Penn State article on the NIH Director's Transformative Award for Predictive Personalized Public Health (P3H): A Novel Paradigm To Treat Infectious Disease, and my Twitter and movie debut courtesy of Penn State.

See 2017 article on new NWO Open Mind project with investigators in the Netherlands on MRI for Africa
See 2017 article A neurosurgeon and an engineer walk into a lab
See 2017 article on post-malarial epilepsy 589422164
See 2017 Penn State Research News article on NIH BRAIN Initiative project on Implantable Brain Microelectromechanical Magnetic Sensing and Stimulation entitled A Neurosurgeon and an Electrical Engineer Walk into a Lab.
See 2015 Penn State News article on the NIH Director's Pioneer Award for Neonatal Sepsis and Postinfectious Hydrocephalus , and my YouTube debut courtesy of Penn State, regarding my project Control of the Neonatal Septisome and Hydrocephalus in sub-Saharan Africa.
See 2015 article on Low Cost MRI Scanning for the Developing World from the Materials for Humanity article in the Penn State Materials Research Institute Bulletin Spring 2015
See 2013 article at United Nations Earth News UNEarthNews UN Earth News
See 2013 article and radio piece at Voice of America Voice of America
See 2012 article in (Spanish or Catalan) “Nuestro cerebro también piensa sin palabras”La Vanguardia or La Vanguardia
The route to Africa and the Viola in Penn State News
See Spring 2010 article in Penn State Research Magazine
See Fall 2010 article in Engineering Penn State Magazine
See June 2008 article at Technology Review

Research Interests:

I am a Pediatric Neurosurgeon, with particular interests in understanding the physics of dynamical disease of the nervous system, developing smart prosthetics to treat those diseases, and an interest in global health.

Dynamical Diseases are where the predominant symptomatology manifests as disordered interaction between the elements of the organ in question. My focus is on the nervous system, and grew out of my experience in treating Epilepsy as well as the Spasticity of Cerebral Palsy. Our best surgical treatment offerings for such diseases involves destructive resection, and my goals for many years have centered around the science and engineering of alternatives to such therapies.

Finding better treatments to such dynamical disease requires that we understand the underlying physical principles that govern the normal, and disordered, interactions between elements of the nervous system. I have spent considerable time focusing on the cellular interactions that make up pattern formation in seizures, Parkinson’s disease, and the origin of migraines (spreading depression). I am also deeply involved in learning how to use electrical stimulation to alter such interactions, so that we can design intelligent control algorithms. In human EEG, I have done fundamental work on the signal processing of seizures, discrimination analysis, real time modulation of stimulation based on EEG, and robotic brain-machine interfaces for assistive devices.

An area of special focus of mine is in developing the interdisciplinary fusion of Neural Control Engineering. In 2012 I wrote a book, published by the MIT Press, exploring this intersection between control engineering and dynamical disease of the brain in much detail.

Lastly, I have begun a number of projects to work on improving the diagnosis and treatment of neurosurgical diseases in East Africa. Improving medical care with the constraints of limited resources, through better engineering diagnosis, is a goal that is of broad utility in both the developing and industrialized countries. Furthermore, the under-recognized impact of infectious diseases on creating diseases of the nervous system that we have treated neurosurgically, such as hydrocephalus and epilepsy, is one that I am devoting increasing effort to. In 2015 I recently received the NIH Director's Pioneer Award for Control of the Neonatal Septisome and Hydrocephalus in sub-Saharan Africa that enabled me to intensively focus on these neural consequences of infectious disease in infants in Africa. Emerging from those studies is a novel approach to Predictive Personalized Public Health, P3H, supported by a 2018 NIH Director’s Transformative Award.

Penn State Center for Neural Engineering

I was the founding director of the Penn State Center for Neural Engineering, an intercollege center bridging the Colleges of Engineering, Medicine and Science, was Chartered in June, 2007. I stepped down as Director at the end of 2019. Now led by Professor Bruce J. Gluckman, the Center occupies 22,000 square feet of space in the Millennium Sciences Complex, a structure which brings together faculty and laboratories from Materials Science and Life Sciences at Penn State.

Starting with support of a P30 Research Core Center Grant from NIH in 2009-2010, “Innovations at the Intersection of Neural Engineering, Materials Sci & Medicine”, we have continued to grow and recruit outstanding faculty to the Center. Our present complement in the new facility includes:

Schiff lab People.

US Patents

  • 5,522,863 Pulsating behavior monitoring and modification system for neural networks
  • 5,797,965 Suppression of epileptiform activity
  • 5,800,459 Electric field control of epiletiform activity
  • 6,873,872 Adaptive electric field modulation of neural systems (methods)
  • 6,665,562 Adaptive electric field modulation of neural systems (device)
  • 8,718,755 Methods and Devices for Determining Brain State

And the latest model-based control patent:

  • 8,588,899 Model based control of Parkinson's disease

Teaching and Curricula:

New Course Fall 2008, 2009, 2011: Neural Control Engineering

New Course Spring 2009, 2012: Neuroethics and Neurolaw

New Neural Engineering PhD Track in Engineering Sciences and Mechanics

New MD-PhD Track in Engineering Sciences and Mechanics


Implanting Change: The Ethics of Neural Prosthetics 2007

International Workshop on Seizure Prediction, 2011

Mathematical Biosciences Institute Neuroscience Year 2012-2013


Publications | Invited Contributions and Reviews

Education & Training:

  • SB, MIT, 1977
  • MD, Duke University, 1980
  • PhD (Physiology, G. Somjen), Duke University, 1985
  • General Surgery Internship, Duke University, 1981
  • Neurosurgery Residency, Duke University, 1989
  • Pediatric Neurosurgery Fellowship, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 1990


  • Diplomat of the American Board of Neurological Surgery, 1992

Editorial Boards:

  • Journal of Computational Neuroscience, Action Editor, 2006-
  • Physical Review X, Editorial Board, 2012-2018, Physical Review Letters, Divisional Associate Editor, 2006-2012, Physical Review E, Editorial Board 2000-2005.
  • Journal of Neural Engineering, Editorial Board, 2013-
  • Neural Computation, Associate Editor, 2015-

Selected Recent Funding:


  • Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS), 1994
  • Independent Scientist Awards, National Institutes of Health, 1997, 2003
  • Listed in 'Guide to America's Top Physicians', 2nd Edition, 2005, published by the Consumers' Research Council of America.
  • Listed in 'Guide to America's Top Surgeons', 3rd Edition, 2006, published by the Consumers' Research Council of America.
  • Fellow of the American Physical Society, 2005
    • Citation: “For his contributions to the physical and biological understanding and control of the dynamics of neural signals in the brain.
  • Fellow of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (FAANS), 2010
  • Listed in 'Guide to America's Top Surgeons', 8th Edition, 2011, published by the Consumers' Research Council of America.
  • Fellow of the The American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2012
    • Citation: ”For distinguished contributions to the interface of neuroscience, physics, engineering, and medicine, and in particular the applications of control engineering to dynamical diseases of the brain.
  • Elected to the American Academy of Neurological Surgery, 2014
  • Honorary African Name: Musaazi, Fumbe Clan, 2018



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