Linking Brains to Machines

Billionaire Elon Musk isn’t the only one interested in linking brains to computers. Duke University Professor Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D. has been a pioneer in brain machine interfaces (BMI) for decades. On February 27th, he shared his latest research with the UCI community at the 24th UCI Distinguished Lecture Series on Brain, Learning and Memory. Dr. Nicolelis’ research investigates how the brain encodes sensory and motor information. He has utilized the knowledge gained from his work to develop neuroprosthetics capable of assisting patients with movement disorders in rehabilitation.

A professor of neurobiology, biomedical engineering, and psychology and neuroscience, Dr. Nicolelis is the founder of the Duke Center for Neuroengineering and the Walk Again Project. During his lecture, he guided the audience through his early work recording the electrical activity of neurons in the animal brain, to more recent findings demonstrating primates using their brain’s electrical activity to control neuroprosthetic devices. Dr. Nicolelis saved his most translational work for last, when he presented work using neuroprosthetic devices as potential therapies for patients suffering from paralysis and other neurological disorders. To demonstrate the potential of these devices, he and a worldwide group of scientists helped a paralyzed man kick the opening goal of the 2016 World Cup. It was a remarkable feat to witness.

The Distinguished Lecture Series on Brain, Learning and Memory is the creation of founding faculty member Dr. James L. McGaugh. The series is an annual event held at the Barclay Theatre during the winter and is headlined by a world-leading neuroscientist. Since its inception, the lectureship has been one of the best examples of public outreach that UCI offers.