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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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