A Brain to Spine Interface for Transferring Artificial Sensory Information.

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Lack of sensory feedback is a major obstacle in the rapid absorption of prosthetic devices by the brain. While electrical stimulation of cortical and subcortical structures provides unique means to deliver sensory information to higher brain structures, these approaches require highly invasive surgery and are dependent on accurate targeting of brain structures. Here, we propose a semi-invasive method, Dorsal Column Stimulation (DCS) as a tool for transferring sensory information to the brain. Using this new approach, we show that rats can learn to discriminate artificial sensations generated by DCS and that DCS-induced learning results in corticostriatal plasticity. We also demonstrate a proof of concept brain-to-spine interface (BTSI), whereby tactile and artificial sensory information are decoded from the brain of an "encoder" rat, transformed into DCS pulses, and delivered to the spinal cord of a second "decoder" rat while the latter performs an analog-to-digital conversion during a sensory discrimination task. These results suggest that DCS can be used as an effective sensory channel to transmit prosthetic information to the brain or between brains, and could be developed as a novel platform for delivering tactile and proprioceptive feedback in clinical applications of brain-machine interfaces.





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Yadav, Amol P, Daniel Li and Miguel AL Nicolelis (2020). A Brain to Spine Interface for Transferring Artificial Sensory Information. Scientific reports, 10(1). p. 900. 10.1038/s41598-020-57617-3 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20277.

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Miguel Angelo L. Nicolelis

Professor Emeritus of Neurobiology

Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., is the Duke School of Medicine Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience, Duke University Professor of Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering and Psychology and Neuroscience, and founder of Duke's Center for Neuroengineering. He is the founder and Scientific Director of the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute for Neuroscience of Natal.  Dr. Nicolelis is also founder of the Walk Again Project, an international consortium of scientists and engineers, dedicated to the development of an exoskeleton device to assist severely paralyzed patients in regaining full body mobility.

Dr. Nicolelis has dedicated his career to investigate how the brains of freely behaving animals encode sensory and motor information. As a result of his studies, Dr. Nicolelis 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).

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.

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. 

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