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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.
19 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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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.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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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.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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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. To me, it is more like the very first time event of riding a bike, with..., "Look, Mom, no hands!" --
In this book, Nicolelis shares with us his adventure of learning how to use our brains to use tools with no hands! Breathtaking, explosive, an evolutionary leap, but not beyond boundaries: If we can envision something, we can do it. Some, like Dr. Nicolelis, have enormous vision, the capacity to bring that vision to life, and recount it beautifully.
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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.
Dr. Nicolelis then spends much of the next several chapters going through a history of early and formative neuroscience research, invoking several of its well-known early researchers such as Cajal and Sherrington. Throughout this he shows how distributionist and localizationist thought battled for control over our understanding of the brain, and localizationist interpretations dominated for much of the time. In Nicolelis’ mind, however, the truth of the matter ultimately lies with a more holistic and systemic, rather than individual-cellular, view of the brain. The metaphor he uses is a symphony, like how a large group of instruments can indeed be described as many individual parts, the symphony cannot be simply reduced to them. The whole of the music a symphony creates is encoded as something greater than the sum of its parts; the same is true for the brain operations are greater than the sum of actions of individual neurons.
For the second half of the book, Nicolelis goes through a nonlinear history of Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMIs), jumping back and forth in time to serve the point of both furthering distributionist ideas but also showing the ways research across disparate geographical locations and temporal periods has been connected to make something more than just the sum of several academic papers. Continuing the distributionist metaphor and theme of the book, he shows how modern BMI research is an emergent phenomenon that is greater than just the compilation of its history, that there are gains made through original thought and in the connections between seemingly unconnected research.
Miguel Nicolelis’ book, while an extremely useful text for those academically interested in neuroscience and in Brain Machine Interfaces, shines most as a book made for those who lack exposure to science in general and neuroscience in particular. It does require some foundational knowledge of biology however, including the knowledge that the body is made up of units known as cells, and that the brain is made up of specialized cells known as neurons. While further knowledge of neurobiology would be helpful, like how neurons “signal” to each other using a combination of electrical and chemical signals, which is not absolutely necessary to get meaning from the book.
Nicolelis weaves an autobiographical narrative throughout the text, frequently connecting ideas and research to his own life experiences. Often he explains complex scientific achievements alongside powerful and understandable human metaphors to his own life, like his experience with a conductor during medical school, an experience that served as his foundation for comparing the brain to a collection of musicians. He also explains his multiple intended and pursued career paths, including once dreaming of becoming a Brazilian soccer star, prior to becoming the renowned researcher he is now. With this connection of the text and its subjects to his own life, Dr. Nicolelis both the scientific process and the researchers who utilize the scientific method. He takes what, at first blush, seems an overwhelmingly complex topic, studying the brain and eventually having the brain and computers communicate with one another, and then makes himself and the topics of the book relatable and understandable to most any reader who has the type of interests to seek out a popular press book on science. If a reader seeks out this book, they likely already possess the requisite knowledge to understand it.
Making the scientific process more human is only the start of it however-he then goes on to explain important aspects of science as an institution which aren’t often seen by the public, which the reader can now understand because of his aforementioned humanizing. Interwoven through much of his book are the conflicting ideals of localizationist and distributionist thought, a debate that has gone on for well over a century and continues to this day. This is a part of science not often understood even by those within it-that of competing and equally viable and “proven” ideas and narratives that, unfortunately, contradict one another. Science is often seen as uncovering facts and truth, but often there is a long period of competing facts and competing truths. For example, in the history of thought on the development of organisms, widespread acceptance of Darwin’s ideas is only a recent phenomenon, one preceded by intense and impassioned debates. Nicolelis gives us an insider’s view on such a debate still raging within neuroscience-if he is right, then future neuroscientists will see what is now called “distributionist” thought as factually correct, but the meaning to most people will be his insight into the process of competing ideas within science.
Miguel Nicolelis weaves three histories into his book-the history of neuroscience, and within that the history of Brain Machine Interfaces, and within even that, the history of Miguel Nicolelis. The book relates all three to one another, and then makes Nicolelis someone we can all find a bit of ourselves in, allowing a more publicly accessible understanding of him, his work, and science in general. He draws us in with this attractive idea of connecting our brains to computers, but then shows us the impassioned history and modern practice of neuroscience. It is for these reasons-the book’s popular appeal, accessibility, and educational value that I give it 5 stars. To anyone who is academically interested in Brain-Machine interfaces, mystified by the scientific process, or just wants to know the fascinating life story of this now famous Brazilian, I recommend this book to you!