Miguel Nicolelis

  Male      Brazilian      Scientist

About Author

Miguel Angelo Laporta Nicolelis MD, PhD, is a Brazilian scientist and physician, best known for his pioneering work in "reading monkey thought". 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. 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. 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's 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...

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