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Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines---and How It Will Change Our Lives Hardcover – March 15, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Duke University neuroscientist Nicolelis is a leader in the rapidly developing field that allows brains and machines to work closely together. His pioneering work has led to machines like robotic arms that rhesus monkeys control via the electrical impulses transmitted by neurons in their brains. Nicolelis describes this research and explains the paradigm shifts it has produced, such as a growing group of neuroscientists who now believe that physical and mental activities are not controlled by highly specialized brain regions, but rather "on populations of multitasking neurons, distributed across multiple locations." While Nicolelis predicts future developments, such as brain-machine interfaces that will, for instance, allow paralyzed humans to interact fully with their environment, he devotes most of the book to a historical perspective on neuroscience and to explaining the specifics of his research, which will fascinate neuroscience buffs but may be too detailed for general readers. B&w photos. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Nicolelis defines his field of research as systems neurophysiology, and he guides interested readers to the frontier of brain knowledge in this account of his and colleagues’ experiments. Their practical objectives are the development of a brain-machine interface and, ultimately, a brain-to-brain interface. It seems that the former has been achieved in rudimentary fashion, as Nicolelis describes his Duke University lab’s success in rigging a primate so that its brain’s neural firings actuate a robot in Japan. Many images clarify scientists’ techniques for wiring up and measuring their clinical subjects, while Nicolelis’ explanatory text regularly steers into smiting his intellectual rivals, whom Nicolelis characterizes as holding that specific locations exercise brain functions, whereas he maintains that the brain operates in a distributed way, even as a biological version of physics’ relativity. As readers mull over the debate and absorb Nicolelis’ relativity idea, his conclusion outlines optimistic visionary predictions for neuroscience that will alert them to what’s coming down the pike in technology-driven human evolution. --Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805090525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805090529
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #938,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Miguel Nicolelis, M.D. Ph.D., is the Anne W. Deane Professor of Neuroscience at Duke University, Professor of Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering and Psychology and founder of Duke's Center for Neuroengineering. He is also Founder and Scientific Director of the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute for Neuroscience of Natal (www.natalneuro.net). As Brazil's best known scientist, Dr. Nicolelis has been an outspoken and passionate advocate for strengthening science education, technology and innovation and was selected to lead the country's "Commission on the Future of Brazilian Science." His award-winning research has been published in Nature, Science, and Scientific American and has been reported in Newsweek, Time, and Discover, as well as national TV networks and international media outlets.

Although for the past decade, Dr. Nicolelis is best known for his pioneering studies of Brain Machine Interfaces (BMI) and neuroprosthetics in human patients and non-human primates, he has also developed an integrative approach to studying neurological and psychiatric disorders including Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder. He has also made fundamental contributions in the fields of sensory plasticity, gustation, sleep, reward and learning. Dr. Nicolelis believes that this approach will allow the integration of molecular, cellular, systems, and behavioral data in the same animal, producing a more complete understanding of the nature of the neurophysiological alterations associated with these disorders.

As of today, numerous neuroscience laboratories in the US, Europe, Asia, and Latin America have incorporated Dr. Nicolelis' experimental paradigm to study a variety of mammalian neuronal systems. Indeed, two of his books on multi-electrode recording techniques have become the most cited works in this field. His research has influenced basic and applied research in computer science, robotics, and biomedical engineering. This multidisciplinary approach to research has become widely recognized in the neuroscience community.

Dr. Nicolelis' research has been highlighted in MIT Review's Top 10 Emerging Technologies. He was named one of Scientific American's Top 50 Technology Leaders in America in 2004 and has twice received the DARPA Award for Sustained Excellence by a Performer. Other honors include the Whitehead Scholar Award; Whitehall Foundation Award; McDonnell-Pew Foundation Award; the Ramon y Cajal Chair at the University of Mexico and the Santiago Grisolia Chair at Catedra Santiago Grisolia. In 2007, Dr. Nicolelis was honored as an invited speaker at the Nobel Forum at the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden. More recently he was awarded the International Blaise Pascal Research Chair from the Fondation de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure and the 2009 Fondation IPSEN Neuronal Plasticity Prize. Dr. Nicolelis is a member of the French Academy of Science and the Brazilian Academy of Science and has authored over 160 manuscripts, edited numerous books and special journal issues, and holds three US patents.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nicolelis describes complicated scientific problems in the way understandable to broad audience. His major idea is that information is processed by distributed neural architecture (brain "orchestra"). He developed neural implants that record from different brain regions. Nicolelis and his colleagues conducted experiments in rats and monkeys. They discovered how these animals sense and move, and they created interfaces that convert neural activities into computer codes of sense and movement, which can be then sent to robots and prostheses for the paralyzed. Nicolelis also suggests sending messages from brain to brain. In the last chapter a new treatment for Parkinson's disease is introduced. The book is well illustrated. I wish these were color illustrations. I found especially entertaining the story of Aurora monkey who controlled a robotic gripper by its own thoughts. Another monkey learned to walk on a treadmill and controlled a walking Japanese robot. I wonder if this technology can be implemented to repair the nuclear plant damaged by the earthquake. There are interesting parallels between the brain science and relativity theory. Overall, an excellent book, and thought provoking.
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Format: Hardcover
This book presents some ambitious visions of how our lives will be changed by brain-machine and brain to brain ("mind meld") interfaces, along with some good reasons to hope that we will adapt well to them and think of machines and other people as if they are parts of our body. Many people will have trouble accepting his broad notion of personal identity, but I doubt they will find good arguments against it.

But I wish I'd skipped most of the first half, which focuses on the history of neuroscience research, with too much attention to debates over the extent to which brain functions are decentralized.

He's disappointingly vague about the obstacles that researchers face. He hints at problems with how safe and durable an interface can be, but doesn't tell us how serious they are, whether progress is being made on them, etc. I also wanted more specific data about how much information could be communicated each way, how precisely robotic positioning can be controlled, and how much of a trend there is toward improving those.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of this scientist/author since his "monkey arm" experiments. This book was amazing and I am looking forward to reading his future works.

I gave it four stars rather than five, because the music analogies were a bit distracting in my personal opinion.

In general, the book covers past, present, and projected future for the field of BMI (brain machine interfaces)and neuroprosthetics. It is written and presented in a manner that does not require overly specialized knowledge about the field, but rather could be used as an introduction for curious individuals. However, even people that have kept up with the field's growth will likely enjoy it as much as I did.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Miguel Nicolelis is a Brazilian born, world-renowned neuroscientist working out of Duke University in North Carolina. He is seen as the public face of the recently begun and rapidly expanding field of Brain-Machine Interfaces, and has done much to bring widespread attention to not only that field, but to neuroscience in general. Part of why Nicolelis is seen as the representative of this field is because he brings academic research into a human context, making the ambitious claim that his research has led to a “human-to-human brain” interface, as well as giving a quadriplegic youth the ability to deliver the opening kick in the 2014 world cup held in Nicolelis’ own Brazil. This theme of bringing science, particularly neuroscience, into a more public and relevant context is one underlying his recent book, Beyond Boundaries.
The author starts his historical narrative by describing the two camps of thought in neuroscience, which he terms “localizationist” and “distributionist.” Localizationists are interested in showing how the brains spatial organization is both largely pre-determined and that there is a strong connection between spatial organization and function of brain regions. They also aim to reduce this connection to the individual neuron, imparting emergent physiological capabilities to the single cell. Distributionists, on the other hand, are more interested in how the neuronal “symphonies”, his term for the aggregate of brain activity across multiple regions, each composed of neuronal with constantly plastic and changeable functions. Dr. Nicolelis is unabashedly in the distributionist camp and this loyalty, which often borders on ranting about the ideas he opposes, is apparent throughout the book.
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Great read for this previous friend of a Capuchin monkey years ago in LaPaz, Bolivia. I can attest that monkeys eagerly interface with tools e.g., put on lipstick with or without a mirror; without any human intervention, selectively [apparently based on empirical experience] choose and to all appearances thoroughly enjoy pharmacoactive plants of the psychodelic variety, ride pet cats like horses, and guard patios better than any watch dog. It is not surprising to me that their cousins, the Rheusus, partner with others in neuroscience labs in the study of the use of robotic tools.

My only objection is the title "'Beyond' Boundaries." If my understanding of what the author is saying is correct, then, once incorporated into my neural circuitry, a robot I am using to pick up tools in New York from my office in St. Louis is as much a part of me as my grabber is when I am picking up an object lying on the floor, or as much as a modern artificial limb is to an athlete who has lost his/her birth limb. It is all tool-using capacity, in which we have gone from

1. selecting, making or using tools nearby to...

2. using and making communication tools with nearby and distant uses to...

3. using and programming robots to use tools nearby to...

4. to using and programming robots to use tools from a distance...

5. directing the robotic use of tools nearby, not by any intermediary program, but only by means of neural networks in the brain to...

6. directing the robotic use of tools at a distance, not by an intermediary program, but only by means of neural networks in the brain...

I agree, it is a giant step forward, even an evolutionary step forward. But, I am not sure it is 'beyond' boundaries.
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