Miguel Nicolelis

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Miguel Nicolelis
Miguel Nicolelis (16397324065).jpg
Nicolelis during interview for the Brazilian television program Roda Viva.
Miguel Ângelo Laporta Nicolelis

March 7, 1961 (1961-03-07) (age 60)
Alma materUniversity of São Paulo
ChildrenRafael Nicholas
Scientific career
InstitutionsDuke University, International Institute for Neuroscience of Natal
Prof Doctor Miguel Nicollelis (Neuroscientist).jpg

Miguel Ângelo Laporta Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D. (Portuguese pronunciation: [miˈɡɛw ˈɐ̃ʒelu lɐˈpɔɾtɐ nikoˈlɛlis], born March 7, 1961), is a Brazilian/Greek scientist, physician and Duke School of Medicine Professor in Neuroscience at Duke University, best known for his pioneering work surrounding brain-machine interface technology.


Nicolelis holds a medical degree from the University of São Paulo (1984), a doctorate in Sciences (General Physiology) from the University of São Paulo (1989) and a PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from Hahnemann University. He is a full professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Co-Director of the Neuroengineering Center at Duke University (USA). Founder of the Alberto Santos Dumont Association for Research Support (AASDAP) and the Santos Dumont Institute (ISD), he proposed the use of science as an agent of social and economic transformation. Nicolelis is a Researcher at the International Institute of Neurosciences Edmond and Lily Safra (IIN-ELS) and Coordinator of the Andar de Novo Project, developed at AASDAP in São Paulo.

He and his colleagues at Duke University implanted electrode arrays into a monkey's brain that were able to detect the monkey's motor intent and thus able to control reaching and grasping movements performed by a robotic arm.[1] This was possible by decoding signals of hundreds of neurons recorded in volitional areas of the cerebral cortex while the monkey played with a hand-held joystick to move a shape in a video game. These signals were sent to the robot arm, which then mimicked the monkey's movements and thus controlled the game. After a while the monkey realised that thinking about moving the shape was enough and it no longer needed to move the joystick. So it let go of the joystick and controlled the game purely through thought.[citation needed] A system in which brain signals directly control an artificial actuator is commonly referred to as brain-machine interface or brain-computer interface.

On January 15, 2008, Dr. Nicolelis lab saw a monkey implanted with a new BCI successfully control a robot walking on a treadmill in Kyoto, Japan. The monkey could see the robot, named CB, on a screen in front of him, and was rewarded for walking in sync with the robot (which was under the control of the monkey). After an hour the monkey's treadmill was turned off, but he was able to continue to direct the robot to walk normally for another few minutes, indicating that a part of the brain not sufficient to induce a motor response in the monkey had become dedicated to controlling the robot, as if it were an extension of itself.[2][3]

Nicolelis is a co-founder and scientific director of the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute for Neuroscience of Natal, a brain research facility in Brazil[citation needed].

On August 3, 2010, Nicolelis was awarded an NIH Director's Pioneer Award to continue his research on brain-machine interface technology. On January 5, 2011, Dr. Nicolelis was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.[citation needed]

Nicolelis is a fan of Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras, a Brazilian football club; a football ball with Palmeiras crest can be seen at his website. He is currently working on a project that allowed paraplegic Juliano Pinto, a 29-year-old with complete paralysis of the lower trunk to deliver the kickoff at the opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Brazil.[4]

Brain to brain[edit]

In 2013, a report of research by Nicolelis and others was published which showed brain to brain communication between two rats using brain–computer interfaces. This result may demonstrate the feasibility of a biological computer consisting of a network of animal, or human, brains.[5][6][7] Currently, researchers are divided on their views of this research. Critics state that there are flaws in the scientific methods used and that there is lack of controls.[8] They claim that some of the scientific claims are rendered "far-fetched at best."[8] One researcher stated the work was similar to a "poor Hollywood science fiction script."[8] Proponents have praised this research for drawing attention to Brain to Brain Interfaces as a way of studying neural systems: “The study helps to promote the role of BMIs not only in prosthetic applications, but also as scientific tools. It's a contribution to that.”[8] Ron Frostig, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, has described this brain to brain work as "an amazing paper” and a “beautiful proof of principle” that information can be transferred from one brain to another in real time.[5]


  1. ^ Carmena, Jose M.; Lebedev, Mikhail A.; Crist, Roy E.; O'Doherty, Joseph E.; Santucci, David M.; Dimitrov, Dragan F.; Patil, Parag G.; Henriquez, Craig S.; Nicolelis, Miguel A. L. (2003). "Learning to control a brain–machine interface for reaching and grasping by primates". PLOS Biology. 1 (2): e42. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0000042. PMC 261882. PMID 14624244.
  2. ^ "Monkey Think, Robot Do". Scientific American. January 15, 2008.
  3. ^ "Monkey's Thoughts Propel Robot, a Step That May Help Humans". The New York Times. January 15, 2008.
  4. ^ "Paraplegic in robotic suit kicks off World Cup". BBC News. 12 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b Gorman, James (February 28, 2013). "In a First, Experiment Links Brains of Two Rats". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
  6. ^ Cookson, Clive (February 28, 2013). "Telepathic rats solve problems together". Financial Times. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  7. ^ Pais-Vieira et al. 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d Cossins, Dan (February 28, 2013). "A Brain-to-Brain Interface for Rats". The Scientist. Retrieved March 20, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

Selected Publications on Brain-Machine Interfaces[edit]