Miguel Angelo L. Nicolelis

Image of Miguel Angelo L. Nicolelis

Duke School of Medicine Professor in Neuroscience

A great portion of the mammalian brain is devoted to sampling and processing sensory information generated by the animal's active exploration of its surrounding environment. These complex and vital tasks are accomplished by the cooperative action of large ensembles of neurons distributed across multiple intermediary levels of the parallel sensory pathways that connect peripheral receptors to the cortical mantle. Dr. Nicolelis' laboratory is particularly interested in understanding the general computational principles underlying the dynamic interactions between populations of cortical and subcortical neurons that mediate tactile perception. To pursue this goal, Dr. Nicolelis and his colleagues have developed new electrophysiological techniques for carrying out long-term simultaneous recordings of the extracellular activity of up to 128 single neurons distributed across multiple levels of somatosensory and motor pathways in behaving animals. This experimental paradigm is used in combination with multivariate statistical techniques, computer graphics, and neural network models to analyze the spatiotemporal structure of neuronal ensemble activity and its correlation with different aspects of exploratory tactile behaviors.

Heretofore, this approach has been used to describe the spatiotemporal structure of normal sensory responses and functional plastic rearrangements within the somatosensory thalamus. Currently, the lab is investigating the dynamic interactions between populations of sensory and motor neurons during active tactile exploration of novel objects. The rat whisker system is the main model used in this investigation. Using the same experimental approach, the lab will also study haptic discrimination in behaving non-human primates. The overall goal is to verify whether patterns of neuronal ensemble activity across the sensory system predict object attributes such as shape and texture. Another main project in the lab focuses on the role of early postnatal motor activity in shaping the spatiotemporal structure of sensory responses across the rat somatosensory system.

Appointments and Affiliations
  • Duke School of Medicine Professor in Neuroscience
  • Professor of Neurobiology
  • Professor in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience
  • Director, Center for Neuroengineering
Contact Information:
  • Office Location: 327 E-f Bryan Res Bldg, Box 3209, Durham, NC 27710
  • Office Phone: (919) 684-4580
  • Email Address: nicoleli@neuro.duke.edu

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


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
  • NEUROSCI 495: Research Independent Study 3
  • NEUROSCI 496: Research Independent Study 4

Representative Publications: (More Publications)
    • Nicolelis, MA, Brain-machine interfaces to restore motor function and probe neural circuits., Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vol 4 no. 5 (2003), pp. 417-422 [10.1038/nrn1105] [abs].
    • Nicolelis, MA, The amazing adventures of robotrat., Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol 6 no. 11 (2002), pp. 449-450 [abs].
    • Nicolelis, MA; Chapin, JK, Controlling robots with the mind., Scientific American, vol 287 no. 4 (2002), pp. 46-53 [abs].
    • Nicolelis, MA; Ribeiro, S, Multielectrode recordings: the next steps., Current Opinion in Neurobiology, vol 12 no. 5 (2002), pp. 602-606 [abs].
    • Katz, DB; Nicolelis, MA; Simon, SA, Gustatory processing is dynamic and distributed., Current Opinion in Neurobiology, vol 12 no. 4 (2002), pp. 448-454 [abs].
    • Nicolelis, MA; Fanselow, EE, Thalamocortical [correction of Thalamcortical] optimization of tactile processing according to behavioral state., Nature Neuroscience, vol 5 no. 6 (2002), pp. 517-523 [10.1038/nn0602-517] [abs].
    • Nicolelis, MA, Depression at thalamocortical synapses: the key for cortical neuronal adaptation?, Neuron, vol 34 no. 3 (2002), pp. 331-332 [abs].
    • Katz, DB; Simon, SA; Nicolelis, MA, Taste-specific neuronal ensembles in the gustatory cortex of awake rats., The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 22 no. 5 (2002), pp. 1850-1857 [abs].
    • Shuler, MG; Krupa, DJ; Nicolelis, MA, Integration of bilateral whisker stimuli in rats: role of the whisker barrel cortices., Cerebral Cortex, vol 12 no. 1 (2002), pp. 86-97 [abs].
    • Fanselow, EE; Sameshima, K; Baccala, LA; Nicolelis, MA, Thalamic bursting in rats during different awake behavioral states., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, vol 98 no. 26 (2001), pp. 15330-15335 [10.1073/pnas.261273898] [abs].
    • Das, A; Franca, JG; Gattass, R; Kaas, JH; Nicolelis, MA; Timo-Iaria, C; Vargas, CD; Weinberger, NM; Volchan, E, The brain decade in debate: VI. Sensory and motor maps: dynamics and plasticity., Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, vol 34 no. 12 (2001), pp. 1497-1508 [abs].
    • Ghazanfar, AA; Krupa, DJ; Nicolelis, MA, Role of cortical feedback in the receptive field structure and nonlinear response properties of somatosensory thalamic neurons., Experimental Brain Research, vol 141 no. 1 (2001), pp. 88-100 [10.1007/s002210100849] [abs].
    • Kralik, JD; Dimitrov, DF; Krupa, DJ; Katz, DB; Cohen, D; Nicolelis, MA, Techniques for long-term multisite neuronal ensemble recordings in behaving animals., Methods, vol 25 no. 2 (2001), pp. 121-150 [10.1006/meth.2001.1231] [abs].
    • Krupa, DJ; Matell, MS; Brisben, AJ; Oliveira, LM; Nicolelis, MA, Behavioral properties of the trigeminal somatosensory system in rats performing whisker-dependent tactile discriminations., The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 21 no. 15 (2001), pp. 5752-5763 [abs].
    • Shuler, MG; Krupa, DJ; Nicolelis, MA, Bilateral integration of whisker information in the primary somatosensory cortex of rats., The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 21 no. 14 (2001), pp. 5251-5261 [abs].
    • Katz, DB; Simon, SA; Nicolelis, MA, Dynamic and multimodal responses of gustatory cortical neurons in awake rats., The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 21 no. 12 (2001), pp. 4478-4489 [abs].
    • Ghazanfar, AA; Nicolelis, MA, Feature article: the structure and function of dynamic cortical and thalamic receptive fields., Cerebral Cortex, vol 11 no. 3 (2001), pp. 183-193 [abs].
    • Krupa, DJ; Brisben, AJ; Nicolelis, MA, A multi-channel whisker stimulator for producing spatiotemporally complex tactile stimuli., Journal of Neuroscience Methods, vol 104 no. 2 (2001), pp. 199-208 [abs].
    • Nicolelis, MA; Shuler, M, Thalamocortical and corticocortical interactions in the somatosensory system., Progress in Brain Research, vol 130 (2001), pp. 90-110 [abs].