Miguel Angelo L. Nicolelis

Image of Miguel Angelo L. Nicolelis

Duke School of Medicine Professor in Neuroscience

Dr. Nicolelis has dedicated his career to investigating how the brains of freely behaving animals encode sensory and motor information. As a result of his studies, Dr. Nicolelis was the first to propose and demonstrate that animals and human subjects can utilize their electrical brain activity to directly control neuroprosthetic devices via brain-machine interfaces (BMI).

Over the past 25 years, Dr. Nicolelis pioneered and perfected the development of a new neurophysiological method, known today as chronic, multi-site, multi-electrode recordings. Using this approach in a variety of animal species, as well as in intra-operative procedures in human patients, Dr. Nicolelis launched a new field of investigation, which aims at measuring the concurrent activity and interactions of large populations of single neurons throughout the brain. Through his work, Dr. Nicolelis has discovered a series of key physiological principles that govern the operation of mammalian brain circuits. These findings have been reported in almost 200 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals.

Dr. Nicolelis' pioneering BMI studies have become extremely influential since they offer new potential therapies for patients suffering from severe levels of paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. 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. His research has influenced basic and applied research in computer science, robotics, and biomedical engineering.

Appointments and Affiliations
  • Duke School of Medicine Professor in Neuroscience
  • Professor of Neurobiology
  • Professor in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience
  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
  • Director, Center for Neuroengineering
Contact Information:
  • Office Phone: (919) 684-4580
  • Email Address: nicoleli@neuro.duke.edu

  • Ph.D. University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), 1988
  • M.D. University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), 1984

Research Interests:

Dr. Nicolelis investigates how the brains of freely behaving animals encode sensory and motor information. He was first to propose and demonstrate that animals and human subjects can utilize their electrical brain activity to directly control neuroprosthetic devices via brain-machine interfaces (BMI).


Neural Prosthesis

Courses Taught:
  • BME 394: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • NEUROBIO 393: Research Independent Study
  • NEUROBIO 793: Research in Neurobiology
  • NEUROSCI 493: Research Independent Study 1
  • NEUROSCI 494: Research Independent Study 2

Representative Publications: (More Publications)
    • MA Nicolelis, Brain-machine interfaces to restore motor function and probe neural circuits., Nature reviews. Neuroscience, vol 4 no. 5 (2003), pp. 417-22 [doi].
    • MA Nicolelis, The amazing adventures of robotrat., Trends in cognitive sciences, vol 6 no. 11 (2002), pp. 449-450 [abs].
    • MA Nicolelis, JK Chapin, Controlling robots with the mind., Scientific American, vol 287 no. 4 (2002), pp. 46-53.
    • MA Nicolelis, S Ribeiro, Multielectrode recordings: the next steps., Current opinion in neurobiology, vol 12 no. 5 (2002), pp. 602-6 [abs].
    • DB Katz, MA Nicolelis, SA Simon, Gustatory processing is dynamic and distributed., Current opinion in neurobiology, vol 12 no. 4 (2002), pp. 448-54 [abs].
    • MA Nicolelis, EE Fanselow, Thalamocortical [correction of Thalamcortical] optimization of tactile processing according to behavioral state., Nature neuroscience, vol 5 no. 6 (2002), pp. 517-23 [doi] [abs].
    • MA Nicolelis, Depression at thalamocortical synapses: the key for cortical neuronal adaptation?, Neuron, vol 34 no. 3 (2002), pp. 331-2 [abs].
    • DB Katz, SA Simon, MA Nicolelis, Taste-specific neuronal ensembles in the gustatory cortex of awake rats., The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, vol 22 no. 5 (2002), pp. 1850-7 [abs].
    • MG Shuler, DJ Krupa, MA Nicolelis, Integration of bilateral whisker stimuli in rats: role of the whisker barrel cortices., Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991), vol 12 no. 1 (2002), pp. 86-97 [abs].
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Fanselow EE (2002) Dynamic shifting in thalamocortical processing during different behavior.  Phil Trans R Soc Lond B 357: 1753-1758. (2002).
    • A Das, JG Franca, R Gattass, JH Kaas, MA Nicolelis, C Timo-Iaria, CD Vargas, NM Weinberger, E Volchan, The brain decade in debate: VI. Sensory and motor maps: dynamics and plasticity., Brazilian journal of medical and biological research = Revista brasileira de pesquisas médicas e biológicas / Sociedade Brasileira de Biofísica ... [et al.], vol 34 no. 12 (2001), pp. 1497-508 [abs].
    • EE Fanselow, K Sameshima, LA Baccala, MA Nicolelis, Thalamic bursting in rats during different awake behavioral states., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 98 no. 26 (2001), pp. 15330-5 [doi] [abs].
    • AA Ghazanfar, DJ Krupa, MA Nicolelis, Role of cortical feedback in the receptive field structure and nonlinear response properties of somatosensory thalamic neurons., Experimental brain research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation cérébrale, vol 141 no. 1 (2001), pp. 88-100 [doi] [abs].
    • JD Kralik, DF Dimitrov, DJ Krupa, DB Katz, D Cohen, MA Nicolelis, Techniques for long-term multisite neuronal ensemble recordings in behaving animals., Methods (San Diego, Calif.), vol 25 no. 2 (2001), pp. 121-50 [doi] [abs].
    • DJ Krupa, MS Matell, AJ Brisben, LM Oliveira, MA Nicolelis, Behavioral properties of the trigeminal somatosensory system in rats performing whisker-dependent tactile discriminations., The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, vol 21 no. 15 (2001), pp. 5752-63 [abs].
    • MG Shuler, DJ Krupa, MA Nicolelis, Bilateral integration of whisker information in the primary somatosensory cortex of rats., The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, vol 21 no. 14 (2001), pp. 5251-61 [abs].
    • DB Katz, SA Simon, MA Nicolelis, Dynamic and multimodal responses of gustatory cortical neurons in awake rats., The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, vol 21 no. 12 (2001), pp. 4478-89 [abs].
    • AA Ghazanfar, MA Nicolelis, Feature article: the structure and function of dynamic cortical and thalamic receptive fields., Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991), vol 11 no. 3 (2001), pp. 183-93 [abs].
    • DJ Krupa, AJ Brisben, MA Nicolelis, A multi-channel whisker stimulator for producing spatiotemporally complex tactile stimuli., Journal of neuroscience methods, vol 104 no. 2 (2001), pp. 199-208 [abs].
    • , Katz DB, Simon SA, Nicolelis MAL (2001) Electrophysiological studies of gustation in awake rats. In: Methods in Chemosensory Research (Methods and New Frontiers in Neuroscience Series, M.A.L. Nicolelis and S.A. Simon, eds.) CRC Press, pp. 339-357. (2001).
    • , Nicolelis MAL. Actions from thoughts.  Nature.  2001 Jan 18;409 Suppl:403-407. (2001).
    • MA Nicolelis, M Shuler, Thalamocortical and corticocortical interactions in the somatosensory system., Progress in brain research, vol 130 (2001), pp. 90-110.
    • , Faneslow EE, Reid AP, Nicolelis MAL (2000)  Reduction of pentylenetetrazole-induced seizure activity in awake rats by seizure-triggered trigeminal nerve stimulation. J Neurosci 20: 8160-8168. (2000).
    • , Ghazanfar AA, Nicolelis MAL (2000) The space-time continuum in mammalian sensory pathways. In: Time and the Brain (R. Miller, ed.) Harwood Academic Publishers, Sidney, Australia, pp. 97-130. (2000).
    • , Ghazanfar AA, Stambaugh CR, Nicolelis MAL (2000) Encoding of tactile stimulus location by somatosensory thalamocortical ensembles. J Neurosci 20: 3761-3775. (2000).
    • , Katz DB, Nicolelis MAL, Simon SA (2000) There is more to taste than meets the tongue. Am J Physiol 278: G6-G9. (2000).
    • , Krupa DJ, Nicolelis MAL (2000) Network level properties of short-term plasticity in the somatosensory system. Prog Brain Res 128:161-172. (2000).
    • , Laubach M, Wessberg J, Nicolelis MAL (2000) Cortical ensemble activity increasingly predicts behavioral outcomes during learning of a motor task. Nature 405: 567-571. (2000).
    • , Wessberg J,  Stambaugh CR,  Kralik JD,  Beck PD,  Laubach M, Chapin JK,  Kim J,  Biggs SJ, Srinivasan MA, Nicolelis MAL (2000) Real-time prediction of hand trajectory by ensembles of cortical neurons in primates. Nature 408: 361-365. (2000).
    • , Chapin JK, Nicolelis MAL (1999) Principal component analysis of neuronal ensemble activity reveals multidimensional sensory representations. J Neurosci Meth 94: 121-140. (1999).
    • , Chapin JK,  Markowitz RS,  Moxon KA, Nicolelis MAL (1999) Real-time control of a robot arm using simultaneously recorded neurons in the motor cortex. Nature Neurosci 2: 664-670. (1999).
    • , Fanselow E, Nicolelis MAL (1999) Behavioral modulation of tactile responses in the rat somatosensory system. J Neurosci 19: 7603-7616. (1999).
    • , Ghazanfar AA, Nicolelis MAL (1999) Spatiotemporal properties of layer V neurons in the rat primary somatosensory cortex. Cerebral Cortex 9: 348-361. (1999).
    • , Katz DB, Simon SA, Nicolelis MAL  (1999) Simultaneous reorganization in thalamcortical ensembles evolves over several hours after perioral capsaicin injections. J Neurophysiol 82: 963-977. (1999).
    • , Krupa DJ, Ghazanfar AA, Nicolelis MAL (1999) Immediate thalamic sensory plasticity depends on corticothalamic feedback. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96: 8200-8205. (1999).
    • , Laubach M, Shuler M, Nicolelis MAL (1999) Independent component analyses for quantifying neuronal ensemble interactions. J Neurosci Meth 94: 141-154. (1999).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Ghazanfar AA, Oliveira LMO, Chapin JK, Nelson R, Kaas JH (1998) Simultaneous encoding of tactile information by three primate cortical areas. Nature Neurosci 1: 621-630. (1998).
    • , Faggin B, Ngyuen KT, Nicolelis MAL (1997)  Immediate and simultaneous plastic reorganization at multiple levels of the somatosensory system.  Proc Natl Acad Soc USA 94:9428-9433. (1997).
    • , Ghazanfar AA,  Nicolelis MAL (1997)  Non-linear processing of tactile information in the thalamocortical loop.  J Neurophysiol 78:506-510. (1997).
    • , Lin CS, Nicolelis MAL, Chapin JK (1997) Topography and laminar organization of the incertocortical pathway in rats.  Neuroscience 81: 641-651. (1997).
    • , Nicolelis MAL (1997)  Dynamic and distributed somatosensory organization as the substrate for cortical and subcortical plasticity. Seminars in Neurosciences 9:24-33. (1997).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Fanselow E, Ghazanfar AA (1997) Hebb's dream:  The resurgence of cell assemblies.  Neuron 19(2):219-221. (1997).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Ghazanfar AA, Faggin B, Votaw S, Oliveira LMO (1997) Reconstructing the engram:  simultaneous, multiple site, many single neuron recordings. Neuron 18:529-537 (1997).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Lin RCS, Chapin JK (1997)  Neonatal whisker removal reduces the discrimination of tactile stimuli by thalamic ensembles in adult rats.  J Neurophysiol 78: 1691-1706. (1997).
    • , Chapin JK, Nicolelis MAL (1996) Neural network mechanisms of oscillatory brain states: characterization using simultaneous multi-single neuron recordings., In: Continuous waveform analysis, R.M. Basheiss and D.J. Vicent (eds). Electroenceph Clin Neurophysiol, suppl 45, pp 113-122. (1996).
    • , Lin RCS, Nicolelis MAL, Zhou HL, Chapin JK (1996) Calbindin-containing, non-specific thalamocortical projecting neurons in the rat. Brain Research 711: 50-55. (1996).
    • , Nicolelis MAL (1996)  Beyond maps: A dynamic view of the somatosensory system. Braz J Med Biol Res 29: 401-412. (1996).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Oliveira LMO, Lin RCS, Chapin JK (1996) Active tactile exploration influences the functional maturation of the somatosensory system. J Neurophysiol 17: 2192-2196. (1996).
    • , Chapin JK, Nicolelis MAL (1995)  Beyond single unit recording: Characterizing neural information in networks of simultaneously recorded neurons.  In: Scale in Conscious Experience, eds. J. King and K.H. Pribram.  Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc., New Jersey, pp. 133-153. (1995).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Baccala LA, Lin RCS, Chapin JK  (1995) Sensorimotor encoding by synchronous neural ensemble activity at multiple levels of the somatosensory system. Science 268: 1353-1358. (1995).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Chapin JK, Lin RCS (1995)  Development of the direct projections from the zona incerta to the primary somatosensory cortex in rats.  Neurosci 65: 609-631. (1995).
    • , Bennett-Clarke CA, Nicolelis MAL, Jacquin MF (1994) Proceedings of a satellite symposium of the 1993 Society for Neuroscience Meeting. Somat Mot Res 11: 197-204. (1994).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Chapin JK (1994) Spatiotemporal structure of somatosensory responses of many-neuron ensembles in the rat ventral posterior medial nucleus of the thalamus. J Neurosci 14: 3511-3532. (1994).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Lin RCS, Woodward DJ, Chapin JK (1993) Dynamic and distributed properties of many-neuron ensembles in the ventral posterior medial (VPM) thalamus of awake rats. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 90: 2212-2216. (1993).
    • , Nicolelis MAL, Lin RCS, Woodward DJ, Chapin JK (1993) Peripheral block of ascending cutaneous information induces immediate spatiotemporal changes in thalamic networks. Nature 361: 533-536. (1993).
    • , Lin CS,  Nicolelis MAL, Schneider JS, Chapin JK (1990) A major direct GABAergic pathway from zona incerta to neocortex. Science 248: 1553-1556. (1990).