Research and Projects

The following frequently asked questions focus on specific research directions and projects of the TCNL. Please read further to learn more.

  1. What areas of research is TCNL engaged in? 
  2. What disorders do TCNL research? 
  3. How can I get involved with a study?
  4. Does TCNL focus only on medical disorders? 
  5. Have any of TCNL's findings been applied outside of the basic laboratory setting? 
  6. Are any TCNL inventions patented? 
  7. Are any of TCNL's devices available in the U.S.? 
  8. Is the PoNS device available for humanitarian use?

What areas of research is TCNL engaged in? 

TCNL has three core areas that form the backbone of our research: Sensory substitution, Electrotactile stimulation, and Neuromodulation. Our objectives are to design interventions to help people with sensory and neurological disorders regain function. Specifically, we explore how touch can substitute for other lost senses such as vision or balance. We are also determining how to enhance recovery following a stroke, head trauma, or neurological disorder by influencing the brain’s activity during rehabilitation.

What disorders does TCNL research? 

We believe our technology has the potential to affect a wide variety of movement disorders. So far, our research has focused on multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson's, and spinocerebellar ataxia.

How can I get involved with a study?

People who have a neurological condition that are interested in being a part of our research can email us via the Contact page.

Our Projects page lists projects that may be recruiting new subjects. is a US government website that lists active clinical trials in the United States and internationally by many different organizations. 

Does TCNL focus only on medical disorders? 

No, the TCNL has had many research projects that are not solely focused on developing therapeutic interventions. For example, we research basic mechanisms of neuroplasticity. Some of our technology is applied to non-medical fields like underwater orientation devices or space exploration. Please visit the Projects page for more information.

Have any of TCNL's findings been applied outside of the basic laboratory setting? 

Only visual sensory substitution using tongue stimulation has been commercialized in the BrainPort device marketed by Wicab, Inc.

Are any TCNL inventions patented? 

Paul Bach-y-Rita and Kurt Kaczmarek invented the core tongue tactile display technology, "Tongue-placed tactile output device," US Patent 6,430,450. The first prototype of this technology is the Tongue Display Unit (TDU).

Yuri Danilov, Kurt Kaczmarek, and Mitch Tyler invented Cranial-Nerve Non-Invasive NeuroModulation (CN-NINM) technology, used in much of TCNL's present research, and covered by US Patents 8,849,4078,909,345, and 9,020,612. The PoNS device and associated therapeutic exercises are one way to implement CN-NINM therapy. 

Are any of TCNL's devices available in the U.S.? 

The PoNS™ tongue stimulator is presently an investigational device, meaning that it may only be used for research studies, not for medical treatment.  TCNL, as an academic laboratory, uses the device only for research studies that further TCNL’s mission. The PoNS device is not yet approved by the US FDA and is not for sale in the U.S. or other markets.

Helius Medical Technologies is conducting clinical trials using their own version of the PoNS device ( identifier NCT02429167) with intention to market the device upon gaining appropriate regulatory clearance. Please contact Helius for further information. 

Wicab, Inc. markets the BrainPort™ Vision Device in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and several European countries.


Is the PoNS device available for humanitarian use? 

At this time, neither the University of Wisconsin nor the TCNL intends to seek FDA approval for commercial use of the PoNS device, which includes humanitarian use. TCNL, as an academic laboratory within the University of Wisconsin, uses the device only for clinical research studies.

Clinical trials in pursuit of FDA approval outside of the TCNL/University of Wisconsin are in process. More information can be found on or Helius Medical Technologies,

Our Projects

Click here to see a list of our projects.