Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis on connecting brains and machines (28-02-2016)

Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis about the possible to create an organic computer and a brain net by connecting human brains.

More videos with Miguel Nicolelis

automatically generated captions
00:00:00 Speaker 1: Well, can digital machines emulate human behavior?
00:00:03 Speaker 2: No, not a chance, not ever, never, actually.
00:00:11 Speaker 1: And why is that?
00:00:12 Speaker 2: Well, because we are not machines, and our brains do not work through algorithms,
00:00:20 and we don't work in binary logic. So we have components of our minds that are analog, very important components.
00:00:29 And we all know that digital processes, they can approximate, but they cannot emulate analog processes,
00:00:36 particularly processes like the ones that take place in our minds.
00:00:46 The brain is a very complex system and is formed by 100 billion elements connected to each other,
00:00:55 which are continuously adapting to the statistics of their outside world.
00:00:59 And this adaptation, that we call plasticity, makes it impossible for a digital machine that needs code to run.
00:01:02 So there is no software and hardware in the brain, that's the other thing.
00:01:11 Speaker 1: It's like an organic computer.
00:01:12 Speaker 2: Yeah, it's an organic computer, the brain computes with the organic tissue that it has,
00:01:20 and that kind of computation is not reducible to an algorithm. So there is no singularity coming for the human race.
00:01:29 There are other problems that computers can bring to the human race, but not replacing our minds.
00:01:35 Speaker 1: Because it would deny us evolution of the brain.
00:01:38 Speaker 2: Absolutely,
00:01:40 a brain is a system that is a product of an evolutionary process that involved millions of random steps that cannot be
00:01:50 simulated in a laboratory or in a machine. And my concern is not that digital computers will reproduce the brain.
00:01:58 My main concern is that because the brain is so adaptable, so plastic, and it absorbs everything that is relevant,
00:02:07 that gives the brain an evolutionary advantage and a survival advantage, that we may,
00:02:13 because we are continuously exposed to computers, digital machines,
00:02:16 and now this exposure is becoming almost overwhelming, that we may start reducing our human condition to mimic machines.
00:02:26 And what is going to be rewarded out there is behaviors that are similar to machines.
00:02:31 And so the brain would simulate machines and behave like machines, produce behaviors like machines,
00:02:37 eliminating the most important things that define our human condition.
00:02:43 Speaker 1: Yep, I understand that, and when you look at the brain, when did your fascination for the brain start?
00:02:50 Speaker 2: Actually, my fascination started when I read a science fiction book by Isaac Asimov
00:02:56 when I was in high school here in Brazil.
00:02:59 And it was a kind of boring book, because I like Isaac Asimov for the science fiction books.
00:03:04 But then I found his book, The Brain, and it was one of a few books that he wrote that is not really science fiction,
00:03:10 and it was a description. And in that book, there was no dynamics, there was no physiology, there was mainly anatomy.
00:03:17 But I realized that I was, for the first time, introduced to the thing that really creates everything.
00:03:24 And then when I went to medical school, I started working with computers, microcomputers.
00:03:28 They were just coming out in the 80s here in Brazil.
00:03:32 And I thought, for a moment, okay, I'm going to work on applications, on computers in medicine, because I liked,
00:03:38 very much, that.
00:03:40 And then I thought, well, but the ultimate computing device is the brain,
00:03:44 and at that time I didn't really know much about either computers or the brain.
00:03:50 But I decided that I wanted to understand the brain first, and that was 35 years ago.
00:03:57 I'm still trying to understand the brain first.
00:04:00 Speaker 1: Yeah, because first, you are fascinated by brain, you are investigating the brain, but then the next step,
00:04:20 also, you start to understand the brain.
00:04:20 Speaker 2: Yeah, well, when I came to neuroscience in 82, 83, again, there was no dynamics,
00:04:20 there was no time in the brain. Most of the descriptions were very static.
00:04:24 We talk of maps, columns, areas, subareas, secrets, but there was no flow, there was no changing.
00:04:33 Plasticity was reported in 83 by, now one of my heroes and my good friend, Jon Kaas, and his colleague, Mike Merzenich,
00:04:41 two papers that were rejected everywhere,
00:04:44 and they only got published in a new journal because people didn't want to see it.
00:04:47 Proof that the adult brain was changing, it was adapting to lesions in the periphery, that's how they showed it.
00:04:56 And I wasn't aware of this paper until 85, but when I saw the paper, two papers, actually, I start wondering,
00:05:06 this is totally different that what I have been reading.
00:05:11 And that's when I went for my PhD here in Brazil, after medical school.
00:05:16 And I realized that what I wanted to look into the brain was the dynamics of the brain, because I had a hint.
00:05:23 It was very faint, it was not a very concrete thing, that there was much more to plasticity than just what Jon
00:05:31 and Mike had reported.
00:05:33 It turned out that plasticity is pretty much what matters in the brain, it's the central concept of the brain.
00:05:39 So I'm absolutely shocked that these guys have not won a Nobel Prize yet.
00:05:44 People have won Noble Prizes lately for minute, tiny things.
00:05:49 These guys discovered the essence of what the brain is about.
00:05:53 Speaker 1: And when you look, because when you start to understand the brain,
00:05:58 I suppose you can also understand the immense possibilities when you combine brains, when you think in brains.
00:06:05 How does that work with you, because you're one of few experts?
00:06:09 Speaker 2: Well, when I went to the US, I met another phenomenal guy, John Chapin, and we had the same idea.
00:06:18 We were one of the few people in the world at that time, today it's common ground, but at that time, in fact, people,
00:06:25 when they heard what we wanted to do, record from multiple neurons,
00:06:28 multiple brain cells simultaneously in behaving animals so we could look at the dynamics of the circuit.
00:06:34 Some of our colleagues, more senior colleagues thought that we were nuts, that we were crazy,
00:06:39 that there was no point in moving from recording the electrical signals of one neuron to many neurons.
00:06:45 So John and I had a lot of opposition, and our careers were on the fringe at that time.
00:06:51 And he was already an established guy, but even so, he was young, and I was just a nobody coming from Brazil,
00:06:59 a postdoc.
00:07:00 But it turned out that what we discussed in the early 90s in the studies that we published then, I think,
00:07:08 are now pretty much at the center of neuroscience, at the edge.
00:07:15 And in, almost, desperation, in 97, we had many papers published, but people are now really paying attention to them.
00:07:20 We discussed, one day,
00:07:22 that we needed a new preparation to convince our colleagues that this thing that we were talking about,
00:07:28 population coding, was much more relevant than anything that had been done before, in terms of single neurons.
00:07:34 And that's when we came up with the idea of brain-machine interfaces, of linking brains to devices.
00:07:38 It was a preparation, an experimental paradigm that we created to test the notion that to control a device,
00:07:46 either a real limb, a leg or arm, or an artificial device, the brain requires lots of neurons, not a single cell,
00:07:55 and we proved that quantitatively.
00:07:57 When you let the animals use only one neuron to control complex device, nothing happened.
00:08:04 But when you get a population of cells working together,
00:08:07 they were able to use just the brain activity to control devices.
00:08:11 Speaker 1: Yeah, and you did that with rats?
00:08:15 Speaker 2: We did with rats first.
00:08:15 And a year later we did, that was the first paper and pretty much interfaces in modern age, with the constitute,
00:08:21 define the term.
00:08:21 I publish a paper in Nature in 2000 that actually started with a description of this goal that you see here.
00:08:29 To explain what a population code means because this was a goal scored in which eight players touched the ball without
00:08:37 any Italian being able to touch it.
00:08:39 And none of the individual players knew the outcome of the play until Carlos Oberto kicked the ball
00:08:46 and the goal was scored, so that's what I was trying.
00:08:49 The message, the metaphor, was to explain that none of the individual neurons knows what is going on.
00:08:53 It's the population, it's the team, that knows the outcome.
00:08:58 So I started a paper and in the middle of the paper I said, well, what John and I have proposed a year ago,
00:09:03 we call it brain machine interface, and the term was created in there.
00:09:07 A year later we did it on monkeys, in our monkeys, and in Rhesus monkeys.
00:09:13 In 2004 we did a first human demonstration of this concept in an interoperative procedure in Parkinson patients just
00:09:19 for a few minutes. It was the first human demonstration that everything we had seen in monkeys was applicable.
00:09:25 Speaker 1: And what was it that you saw then?
00:09:27 Speaker 2: Well we saw this symphony, this neural symphony.
00:09:29 The dynamic properties that we saw in rats and monkeys were there in humans. It was the same thing.
00:09:37 And the same mathematical computational approach that we used to link the brain with a device would work in humans.
00:09:45 And so that is when we realized that we had something gigantic and that it was not just a basic science apparatus
00:09:54 or paradigm.
00:09:54 We had touched something that could have clinical relevance
00:09:59 and it could advance neuroscience to realms that we never thought about before.
00:10:04 Speaker 1: And what, when you look beyond 2016-2017, where are we headed for?
00:10:08 Speaker 2: I don't think anybody can answer that.
00:10:14 Nobody can answer that question honestly because every day things are changing,
00:10:19 but it's a completely different neuroscience. It's a completely different brain research.
00:10:24 If you look at the Brain Initiative in the United States, that I'm not part of, never got invited to be,
00:10:31 everything that initiative's about is what John and I did.
00:10:34 It's about recording more and more neurons, studying only circuits, paying attention about dynamics, elasticity,
00:10:41 creating technology to visualize thousands, millions of neurons.
00:10:45 However the emphasis is mainly on technology and I think the emphasis should be in the questions.
00:10:51 It should be in the real science. Curiosity should be the emphasis I think.
00:10:57 But as you know technology in the US has become a monster,
00:11:01 almost a religion to the point that some people predict that we will be replaced by technology.
00:11:06 Which is against the idea that no derivative of a biological system can be more complex than the biological system that
00:11:14 created that derivative.
00:11:16 Technology is just a projection of our mind, it can never be more complex than the mind who created this technology.
00:11:23 Speaker 1: When you look at the framework, okay I can understand that you don't want to be a part of it I can imagine.
00:11:29 Speaker 2: Yeah.
00:11:29 Speaker 1: But you, yourself, are developing in the neuroscience, big steps. Can you explain?
00:11:36 Speaker 2: Well, sure, we first started with pretty much an interface concept right.
00:11:43 We discovered that we could link brains of rats, monkeys and humans to a upper limb robotic device.
00:11:50 There was a physical robot. A seven degree of freedom industrial robot and it worked. That was the first thing.
00:11:57 But then we said why it need to be upper limb? Why could it be lower limb? Nobody went for it.
00:12:02 We are the only lab, one of the few labs in the world, perhaps two or three labs in the world that said okay.
00:12:08 Let's try for legs and it works. And then we say why it has to be a robot? Why can it not be a virtual device?
00:12:16 Can a brain incorporate a virtual device as if it were a part of the subject's body? A real flesh and bone.
00:12:24 And it worked.
00:12:24 We put an avatar of limbs and legs or arms and the monkeys treated that after a while as if there were a third
00:12:34 or a fourth so we had monkeys with four limbs. Two biological and two virtual, same thing with legs.
00:12:41 Then we said well the actuator doesn't need to be next to the monkey. So we put an actuator in Japan.
00:12:47 A robot in Japan and we had a monkey in the United States controlling across the globe.
00:12:52 And, lo and behold, the monkey assimilated the legs of the robot as if there were his own legs.
00:13:01 And you could stop the treadmill when the monkey was walking at Duke.
00:13:05 And he would still keep imagining movements for the robot to work in Japan as long as it give reward.
00:13:12 You know, monkeys are like us, they need a bribe to work.
00:13:16 And as long as it keep giving them juice or grapes they will do that.
00:13:22 So then we went further and said why does it need to be just one brain?
00:13:27 Could we have multiple brains collaborating mentally to achieve this movement? So that's what we call a brain act.
00:13:35 And we just published a year ago showing the three monkeys that don't even know that they are next to each other
00:13:43 because in different rooms they don't know the existence of the other guys.
00:13:45 They can mentally collaborate to make a virtual arm,
00:13:49 make certain movements that inform the monkeys how they should do it.
00:13:55 And so if you give monkey one the job of controlling the x and y dimensions of the movement,
00:14:12 this is a 3D movement so x, y, and z.
00:14:12 Monkey one does x and y, monkey two does y and z and monkey three does the x and z.
00:14:12 You need at least two monkeys to get a 3D out of this, but if you get a third guy it looks much better,
00:14:17 the results much better and they can get all reward very quickly and at the same time.
00:14:22 Well, the monkeys get together, they synchronize their brains and they work as if they were part of a single brain.
00:14:30 And this experiment, I think our colleagues have not seen it, they thought it was just, some of them,
00:14:36 thought it was just a trick, just some kind of a Hollywood kind of thing. It's not.
00:14:41 We actually used that to show how a single brain may synchronize to operate. Because there's a big mystery.
00:14:48 How multiple areas of your brain actually come together, at the precise moment in time, to do a job.
00:14:54 To make my arms move, to make me speak, to make me reason. Nobody knows. Nobody knows how this synchronization happens.
00:15:01 Well, it turns out that if you put multiple brains separately and you give a common feedback to them, they synchronize.
00:15:09 So I think we found a very profound rule of when millions of people watching TV, the same TV show around the country,
00:15:20 around the globe and they all synchronize.
00:15:24 And when your in a stadium, seeing the same match, the fans, they all synchronize.
00:15:30 So I think we found what is going on, what happens when multiple individuals are recruited to be part of a structure.
00:15:37 And that's the reason why I'm calling this the structure being that multiple ants working together, bees
00:15:43 or birds flying together in a flock, fish swimming together to many humans in a movie theater or a stadium.
00:15:52 I'm calling these our organic computer because it's a synchronized device that is computing In a domain analog,
00:16:04 that digital computers cannot get there.
00:16:06 So that's how we have evolved of this, and of course, five years ago,
00:16:12 we decided okay there's clinical relevance of this thing.
00:16:15 And we make people benefit from brain machine interfaces by restoring mobility to them.
00:16:21 That's the reason you see this lab here, that's why we came to Brazil and decided to this for the World Cup first,
00:16:28 but the project has continued.
00:16:29 And our biggest discovery with brain machine I think in a decade is that if apparently through exposed chronically,
00:16:37 to a user of a brain machine interface or paradigm in which you are controlling with your mind something
00:16:45 and you're getting rich visual and tactile feedback.
00:16:48 You start getting for a paralyzed person with a lesion in the spinal cord, you might start getting recovery of motor
00:16:55 and tactile behaviors below the level of the lesion, which has never been demonstrated with other techniques.
00:17:02 So these are chronic patients, many years after the accident and yet in almost 80% of them, after two years,
00:17:10 we are seeing that they are recovering control of muscles in the legs.
00:17:14 They now can feel their bodies below the level of the lesion.
00:17:19 I think is related to the training that they were exposed to.
00:17:22 Yeah what I'm saying is we did create an exoskeleton, a robotic vest controlled by brain activity.
00:17:30 And we instrumented this exoskeleton to deliver feedback back to the subject.
00:17:35 So the subject, every time he steps on the ground,
00:17:39 there are sensors in the surface of the foot to the exo that detect the pressure of the contact.
00:17:45 That pressure signal is then delivered to the skin on the arm of the patients because it's one of the few parts of the
00:17:51 body where they originally had tactile sensation.
00:17:54 And by adapting the parameters of the speed and the magnitude of this pressure wave on the skin,
00:18:04 we induced the phenomena of phantom limb sensation.
00:18:05 So we fooled the brain of these guys to feel through their arms their legs.
00:18:10 So they report to use they're walking with their own legs and they are touching the ground
00:18:14 and they can even tell you what the ground is.
00:18:16 They can tell when the ground is grass or the ground is sand or if it's hot asphalt,
00:18:23 so the street floors they can distinguish with this system. But then we only wanted originally to restore mobility.
00:18:31 Put them in a device link the device to their brains and get them to walk again.
00:18:35 That was original game, but we always did the neurological examination as a routine,
00:18:41 and we didn't expect to see any change.
00:18:44 Well six months, a month after the World Cup, six months after the training started we started,
00:18:50 we start seeing that these guys were having motor contractions of muscles below the level the lesion.
00:18:57 And seven of these guys had a complete clinical lesion, which means after ten years, that you shouldn't see anything.
00:19:07 You shouldn't see motor contractions, voluntary motor contractions and muscles,
00:19:10 they should not have tactile feelings and they should not have visceral feelings.
00:19:15 So they couldn't feel, for instance, the women could not feel when their period days of the month are.
00:19:22 Well, we're still getting reports from the two women in the project, look, I can feel one of my periods coming.
00:19:28 I actually can feel that I need to go to the bathroom now, I can control my bladder now,
00:19:32 several of them start telling us. And then when we did a motor test, we measure quantitatively the contraction force.
00:19:40 All the sudden we had a woman with 20 newtons of force,
00:19:44 which is the little kind of force that you need to make to start moving.
00:19:48 And we start looking at individual muscles and we could detect the contractions.
00:19:52 So we redid the classification, it's called ASIA.
00:19:54 ASIA is the American Spinal Cord Injury classification standard,
00:19:58 gold standard of classifying patients all over the world.
00:20:03 These guys were, seven of them were ASIA A, which means complete paralysis, and one was ASIA B,
00:20:09 which is sort of intermediate.
00:20:11 Well, in six months 50% of them were promoted to ASIA C, which is partial spinal cord injury. Two years later.
00:20:21 Speaker 1: We're now talking?
00:20:21 Speaker 2: Yeah, we're now talking about guys that can.
00:20:25 Speaker 1: 2017, 2016, 2015?
00:20:26 Speaker 2: Yeah, we started training them in November 2013.
00:20:30 So six months after the training started, one month after the world cup, after we lost to the Dutch,
00:20:36 and I shouldn't say that on camera and lose my passport but it was something in the food to sick.
00:20:44 But in any event, one month after the World Cup ended and we had done our demo, which was seen by 1.2 billion people,
00:20:53 we re-did the neurological test.
00:20:55 And lo and behold, half of the patients had muscle contractions that they could control,
00:21:01 they could actually generate movements that visual, you can see the movements.
00:21:05 And when you put them upright they could simulate walking, and we keep doing it, we keep doing the training.
00:21:13 Now this December we completed two years of training.
00:21:17 We redid the neurological exam, and now 78% of the patients have recovered movement.
00:21:24 So, six out of eight have muscle control below the level, it's not complete,
00:21:32 but it's something that has never been seen.
00:21:34 So, the hypothesis that we have based on studies that were forgotten in the 60s and 70s,
00:21:41 an Australian Pathologists had done a lot of autopsies in Australian spinal cord injury patients that died of natural
00:21:49 causes.
00:21:50 And he realized that in about 60% of the patients there are classified clinically as being complete paralyzed,
00:21:58 there is at least 2 to 20% of fibers of nerves in the spinal cord that is still connected.
00:22:08 They're not totally destroyed but they're quiet very likely, they went blank.
00:22:10 I think our training, now when I read this paper, my hypothesis is that the training,
00:22:16 the intensive training that we did with brain interface of the patients, turned on neurons again in the brain
00:22:23 and these neurons they start sending messages down to the spinal cord to these axons they required.
00:22:28 But it's still there so it's plasticity, it's what John Carls and Mike Merzenik predicted.
00:22:31 Speaker 1: So what would that mean when you think through that and look at future? What are the possibilities?
00:22:39 Speaker 2: The possibilities are tremendous because there are 25 million people in this condition,
00:22:44 spinal cord injury paralysis in the world.
00:22:47 Imagine now if a large percentage of them can recover some movement, some control, because for instance,
00:22:53 one of our patients, one of the women in the group.
00:22:57 Since now she had perineal sensation, she decided to become pregnant and she actually could feel the delivery.
00:23:05 She had bladder control, so she went to work, two of our patients got jobs because now they could get out of the house,
00:23:12 they didn't need to wear diapers anymore. We don't think about it, we had one patient that was hypertense.
00:23:19 He's normal tense now, because the cardiovascular system performs better when we are upright.
00:23:25 And since he's one house a day,
00:23:27 two days a week is enough for the kind of vascular system to recover the blood vessels to open up,
00:23:33 so his blood pressure went down. So being up and walking is a major behavior for we humans.
00:23:40 And this guy's lost weight, and some of them were overweight because of being in a wheelchair too long, a decade or so.
00:23:47 Speaker 1: And when you look further, because it's very important, I understand that, and it's major breakthrough.
00:23:51 But then you look further, when you are able to understand the brain, connect brains, What holds the future for us?
00:23:58 Speaker 2: There are many things. I mean, you saw the prototype of our brainette for humans.
00:24:08 So we are about to get a patient, a naive patient who hasn't been trained yet in our paradigm.
00:24:16 Which takes some weeks, but we want to reduce this training time. Because the beginner, the training is very difficult.
00:24:23 The patient has to really concentrate and in the beginning is a little frustrating,
00:24:26 because the brain has forgotten what is to walk.
00:24:30 Actually the brain has forgotten what is the concept of having lower limbs.
00:24:34 So to virtual reality training we need to re-introduce to the brain the concept, yeah, you have legs.
00:24:40 This body has legs and they move, and we do that by having the patient try to control a avatar of himself, or herself,
00:24:48 walking on virtual space, and it takes many weeks for the patients to get this done.
00:24:53 Well, we are going to start linking the brain of this patient, in non invasive way, with EEG, as you saw,
00:24:59 with a physical therapist that is really well trained in that task.
00:25:03 A normal person would now, I wouldn't say normal, but a person that can walk by herself.
00:25:08 And we are going to link the brains.
00:25:11 And in the beginning of the training 90% or 95% of the signal comes from the healthy physical therapist.
00:25:18 And 5 or 10% comes from the patient who has a spinal cord injury.
00:25:22 So he's going to, his brain's going to, get rewarded faster.
00:25:27 And he's going to have the impression that he's controlling the device.
00:25:29 And I think that motivation, the context, is a driving force for plasticity.
00:25:34 My prediction is that we are going to accelerate the learning curve, because we are going to accelerate plasticity.
00:25:38 So the brain map is going to have a very practical, clinical application almost instantaneously.
00:25:43 Speaker 1: But then also you can use it for different things.
00:25:43 You can start steering things in the world just by thinking.
00:25:45 Speaker 2: Yes, the problem is that a non-invasive technology that we use, EEG, the one that you just put in this,
00:25:57 doesn't have the same resolution in the same information content, it's not as rich in information.
00:26:05 We have to play so much magical tricks to get information out of the signal.
00:26:08 So, it's not as rich as implanting things in the head.
00:26:10 I'm not suggesting that we implant people in the head just so they play video games, but yes,
00:26:15 it's proof of concept the mental collaboration If we get better non-invasive techniques that become portable.
00:26:22 I mean, EEG now is wireless, as you saw, you can have wireless broadcasting.
00:26:29 We have a paper coming this week, although that uses invasive technology in monkeys.
00:26:36 Showing that monkeys can learn to drive wheelchairs in an open space in our lab mentally.
00:26:42 So you see a monkey sitting on the wheelchair and she is driving,
00:26:45 or he's driving the wheelchair to the pod where we are delivering grapes.
00:26:50 But every movement of the wheelchair is coming from the mind of the monkey, via a wireless link.
00:26:58 So it's 500 neurons firing wirelessly, broadcasting the signal wirelessly,
00:27:03 so the motors of the wheelchair turn around and go to the pod.
00:27:07 Speaker 1: But then in that space you can also connect several brains together.
00:27:09 Speaker 2: Yes, we already have an experiment in the lab where two monkeys are collaborating,
00:27:15 each monkey has its own wheelchair. And they only get rewarded if both of them get to the pod.
00:27:20 So the faster monkey helps the slower monkey to get themselves together at the pod at the same time.
00:27:28 So we are already showing the brain working between two monkeys.
00:27:31 Speaker 1: Yeah, but not between humans?
00:27:33 Speaker 2: No in humans we are using for clinical rehab at this point.
00:27:37 But yes, it's conceivable that if we improve the bandwidth
00:27:43 and we improve methods to extract information from the brain, in a non invasive way,
00:27:49 you could have over the Internet millions of people collaborating on a common task.
00:27:53 Speaker 1: So how does the future of your neuroscientific work looks like and the effects of it?
00:28:04 Speaker 2: That's a very good question. I think in one direction we are going to increase the clinical applications.
00:28:11 Because what we saw for spinal chord injury, I think, may be applicable to stroke victims.
00:28:17 It may be applicable to other neurological disorders that require plasticity.
00:28:21 And in fact, I have a theory that I'm about to publish and I'm going to put in my new book, that most neurologic
00:28:28 and psychiatric disorders, independently of their etiology, or the cause of this disease, let's say Parkinson's Disease.
00:28:37 We know that you develop Parkinson's if the cells that contain a particular chemical, dopamine, start dying, okay?
00:28:44 But once they start dying, what we discovered in animals, and then in humans,
00:28:48 is that the lack of dopamine produces like a epileptic seizure, a low level chronic seizure that explains the tremor
00:28:56 and the difficulty to move.
00:28:59 Well we discovered if we put a microchip in the spinal cord and send electric pulses at the right frequency,
00:29:05 tiny electrical pulses that are very high frequency, we disrupt the seizure and the animals
00:29:10 and the patients seem to get better.
00:29:12 So I think this kind of concept that neurological disorders are disorders of neural timing, how they fire together.
00:29:19 If they fire too much, it's not good together.
00:29:22 So I think that I'm going to, in one part of my work, increase the scope.
00:29:28 Use the brain machine interfaces to treat neurological disorders.
00:29:31 That's one, from a basic science point of view, I have two other branches.
00:29:38 One is to push very hard to understand the kind of computation that the brain does that is different from digital
00:29:44 machines.
00:29:46 So I'm building models,
00:29:47 analog models of the brain to particularly study more detailed interaction of the brain magnetic fields.
00:29:54 With the neurons and see if this analog digital interaction, what I like to say,
00:30:00 a recursive analog digital interaction, explains why the brain is different from a digital machine as one line of work.
00:30:09 And the other is to continue to push the envelope on trying to see how large secrets in behaving animals operate.
00:30:16 So, our lab is has now the world record in number of neurons recorded simultaneously.
00:30:22 We getting close to 2,000 neurons now,
00:30:26 but I think we need to increase this to about a 100,000 to a million to start getting close to a picture.
00:30:33 It's like when you do a camera, a movie, and you have just a few pixels of the image, you cannot see it very well.
00:30:39 But if you increase the number of pixels, you start seeing the granularity, you start seeing more
00:30:45 and more of the image, but you're not necessarily need to have all of the pixels of the photograph, or the movie,
00:30:51 to see what is going on.
00:30:53 So I think if we cross the barrier of a million neurons recording simultaneously,
00:30:59 we're going to see a lot of the movie that goes on in the brain.
00:31:03 Speaker 1: Recording simultaneously?
00:31:04 Speaker 2: Recording simultaneously. Yeah, exactly. That's what I mean.
00:31:08 Speaker 1: Yeah and the.
00:31:10 Speaker 1: [INAUDIBLE]
00:31:11 Speaker 1: Can you take me through steps in this lab we filmed?
00:31:25 Speaker 2: Sure, what you're filming, in reality,
00:31:26 is a simulation of the five different steps that our patients undergo when they do the training.
00:31:33 Okay so first, as I said, we need to reinsert in the brain the concept of having legs. So that's basically what we do.
00:31:45 We put them in a virtual reality environment that you're going to see in a moment.
00:31:52 And the patients start interacting with the avatar. We started just with the global concept of walking.
00:31:57 But now we are actually simulating control of the specific muscles of walking,
00:32:02 which we never thought these patients would be able to do with their brains.
00:32:06 They're getting specializing control individual legs with one side of the brain,
00:32:11 for instance the right side controlling the left leg, left side controlling the right leg.
00:32:16 But we discovered that we can do physical therapy by simulating muscle contractions on the video.
00:32:23 So they see a muscle of the leg contracting, and we develop the ability to contract individual muscles,
00:32:29 which is we never thought that would happen. So that's the first step, is the virtual reality.
00:32:34 Then they go to that robotic device, the robot standing on the treadmill.
00:32:40 To learn what is to be inside of a robot,
00:32:43 because you should not underestimate how different it is to be encased in a robotic device.
00:32:50 It's a complete different feeling of what you are.
00:32:54 And since we are providing tactile feedback,
00:32:56 they are getting tactile feedback from their legs inside of a stand-alone robot.
00:33:01 So that takes several months of feeling at ease, normal.
00:33:07 So then we have an intermediate step, where they go and stay in this system that we call zero gravity, zero G.
00:33:17 Where they are upright without a robot and they are practicing with just to be upright.
00:33:23 And trying to move with some orthosis that we fabricate and we give to them to practice,
00:33:30 because they're going to be in an exoskeleton.
00:33:32 We have another step that is just a mix of virtual reality and a stand-alone robot.
00:33:39 And finally, they get into the exoskeleton, just at the end of the process.
00:33:45 And it takes a few months for them to get to that point.
00:33:49 And in the exoskeleton,
00:33:50 they now are using everything they've learned in the previous steps to use the brain activity to control, to trigger,
00:33:58 the movements of the exoskeleton. Now they can trigger individual legs.
00:34:02 And they are getting the feedback from the feet as they walk on the ground.
00:34:07 And sometimes they walk on the ground just looking at a mirror to see their bodies walking upright,
00:34:13 because that helps shape the brain's image of the body.
00:34:17 Sometimes they have goggles because they walk in a virtual reality environment, even though they are in a exoskeleton.
00:34:25 And sometimes they are just walking, doing about 50-some steps back and forth in this laboratory space.
00:34:32 Speaker 1: By thinking, by using their brain.
00:34:34 Speaker 2: By thinking, yes. And that's exactly what we did. This is the third prototype that we have.
00:34:41 The first prototype was used during the demo of the World Cup.
00:34:44 But of course, we had to struggle with FIFA, because FIFA never gave us the conditions to actually do what we wanted,
00:34:52 and I don't need to go into the details.
00:34:54 But from a three minute demo we are down to 29 seconds,
00:34:58 which is almost virtually impossible to do a robotic demonstration.
00:35:02 But what's important in that is that Juliano Pinto, the guy who actually delivered the opening kick of the World Cup,
00:35:08 he trained on the pitch, on the grass for days, and he delivered 57 kicks.
00:35:14 Speaker 1: In the exoskeleton-
00:35:15 Speaker 2: In the exoskeleton, he had 57 attempts and he got 56 correct. Which show that we're in the right direction.
00:35:25 That people can get used to these devices, and they can actually start performing at a very high level of accuracy.
00:35:33 And of course, we just started slow, just with walking straight.
00:35:37 Now we are going to think about, we are already planning turns and other movements that the patients want to have.
00:35:46 But we are learning very quickly now.
00:35:48 So the beginning was very difficult, because some of these patients that you saw were in a wheelchair for a decade.
00:35:54 With no hope of nothing. And I can show you some of the movies that they have of the movements that they can make now.
00:36:04 You would be shocked what a paralyzed-
00:36:05 Speaker 1: By using their brains.
00:36:05 Speaker 2: No, no I'm talking about their own movements without the exo.
00:36:09 When you put them up now in the zero G again, and in the beginning you put them up and say move,
00:36:14 and nothing would happen. They would stand and nothing would happen.
00:36:17 Now you put them in here, and some of these patients can actually, you see them doing this with their own legs.
00:36:25 Suggesting that we reconnected the brain to the spinal cord. Not reconnected anatomically.
00:36:33 Anatomically, there were some nerves that survived there probably. We reconnected it functionally.
00:36:38 The brain can send a message, and the message is getting to the muscles somehow.
00:36:41 Speaker 1: Yeah, and when you look outside the lab to the world, I'd really like the way that you,
00:36:45 how you look at the world and materialize your knowledge and your love for the brain and painting and writing
00:36:57 and looking at software. How do you see that?
00:36:58 Speaker 2: Yeah, well this is something that happened the last five years or so.
00:37:01 What I taught in all my six years, my study of neuroscience was too limited to what most neuroscientists do.
00:37:09 Electrical signals of the brain, computational strategies and behavior.
00:37:14 And then I start thinking deeply with the help of my good friend, Ronald Cicurel, a retired mathematician
00:37:21 and now a philosopher in Switzerland.
00:37:24 And I just came to a realization one day in Montreal when I visit him, while we do our work together and walking.
00:37:32 That actually, when we talk about the brain we should not be limited to the kind of neurophysiological,
00:37:39 neuroanatomical, or neurolingual that neuroscientist talk about.
00:37:43 Certainly I realized that the brain is the center of the human cosmology. The brain is the true creator of everything.
00:37:51 And I start thinking about the whole universe as just raw information, like an empty canvas.
00:37:59 And the brain as the true painter, the human brain. So I don't know if there are other brains out there.
00:38:06 But everything that we have, the history of the planets, the history of the cosmos, the history of the human race,
00:38:15 the theory of evolution, everything that we have conceived since the first human came out of the trees
00:38:23 and started walking.
00:38:24 If you could somehow sum the amount of information
00:38:28 and knowledge processed by every single human brain that ever existed or exists, or will exist, that's the universe.
00:38:37 That's the human universe. And I start thinking about a changing viewpoint.
00:38:44 So first, we thought the Earth was the center of the universe.
00:38:46 Then we thought it was the sun, and then we thought it was the Milky Way.
00:38:51 But then we thought, no, no the center of the universe is the big bang where everything came.
00:38:55 Of course there was something like the big bang, there must have been.
00:38:58 I actually started thinking that the center of the universe, at least for our reference, is our mind,
00:39:04 is the human brain. And I start thinking about everything around us as information, as raw information.
00:39:12 And information that, to get any meaning, to get any description, needs a brain.
00:39:18 And it so happens that the only one that we know is the human brain.
00:39:21 So I have a theoretical experiment we've run on that if some other intelligent lifeform would come in contact with us,
00:39:31 and we actually could talk or communicate somehow.
00:39:34 That lifeform,
00:39:35 assuming he had a brain that evolved through completely different laws of evolution in a different environment,
00:39:43 would tell us a story of the cosmos that is not necessarily ours.
00:39:48 And a complete different cosmology would be confronted with ours.
00:39:53 So I actually think the neuroscience in this century may give us hope.
00:39:59 To bring humanity, the human condition to the center of our lives.
00:40:03 In a position, not in a position but to balance another movement that exist in the world right now.
00:40:10 That seems to say that technology may be able to solve everything.
00:40:15 That technology may be able to educate our kids, take care of the elderly. Run our air ports, run our universities.
00:40:22 Run our knowledge gathering and eventually some loonies say, may replace us. And I think this is crazy, this is insane.
00:40:33 Technology is projection of a much more complex thing called a brain.
00:40:39 When we create a machine like this or create a car, a plane, a computer, or a robot.
00:40:46 We are just projecting our abstraction to a tangible device that is infinitively less complicated than the creator.
00:40:56 So the creator is the mind, the human mind.
00:41:00 And that's the reason I start thinking and I'm not talking about philosophy.
00:41:03 I'm not a philosopher, I know nothing about philosophy.
00:41:07 I'm talking about as a neuroscientist trying to use what I know about the brain to actually say that the brain has a
00:41:12 point of view. The brain is not a passive decoder of the environment.
00:41:17 The brain shaped through evolution, was shaped through evolution by an environment, by our genes, by mutations
00:41:23 and everything. But as we are born and we grow in the early phases of our lives, we start developing a model of reality.
00:41:33 And an interpretation of reality, and we start painting this empty canvas and we give a meaning to it
00:41:46 and we create a story. And we create history too.
00:41:46 And that's a much more profound in my opinion view of the brain and the role of neuroscience then we taught before.
00:41:55 And it changes I think the balance. If we believe in this, the human condition becomes a much more precious.
00:42:03 A single life becomes much more precious than we thought before.
00:42:08 Because, the epic of a single life first of all, can not be reproduced ever and it will never happen again.
00:42:17 It's like a book that will never be written again
00:42:20 and I think it gives us a little more recognition as human beings than currently I see the world going on.
00:42:31 And if I can just to finish, if you read the Iliad or the Odyssey,
00:42:36 which are considered the pinnacle of human condition, a description of the human condition.
00:42:43 When a soldier, a Greek soldier would die in Troy in a battle, Homer describes who he was.
00:42:51 Who are the parents, who are the children that he's leaving?
00:42:54 What is the whole history of that individual that will never be recovered?
00:42:58 So, compare that to the news of a death in the newspaper today which is just a number, nothing.
00:43:06 Homer, God forbid, 3,000 years ago knew better what the human condition is than we probably know now.
00:43:16 We are losing that and I think that process of losing it is part of our brains thinking that it is really nice
00:43:25 and good. And is worth it to mimic computers instead of maintaining our integrity. Our human condition integrity.
00:43:34 Speaker 1: So in your neuroscientific field with several neuroscientists working, are you unique at this?
00:43:44 Speaker 2: No.
00:43:44 Speaker 1: In looking at-
00:43:45 Speaker 2: In terms of the way I look at the brain?
00:43:48 Speaker 1: Yeah.
00:43:48 Speaker 2: No, no, I think there are many people.
00:43:50 Speaker 1: Yeah.
00:43:51 Speaker 2: Of course there are nuances.
00:43:54 It's a big field and the brain is very complicated and there are subtleties from a neurophysiological point of view.
00:44:04 For instance, people believe that we should go deeper into the molecularly structure of the brain.
00:44:09 I find this fine from an intellectual point of view of course studying individual synapses and everything.
00:44:15 I just don't think any of this will allow us to explain how the system works.
00:44:19 The system is truly non-linear and if you start studying just a molecule,
00:44:25 you're not going to be able to track it back to the system.
00:44:28 It's gonna be impossible, the number of non-linearities that you have to face.
00:44:32 So but there are many people that are realizing what we are discussing just now.
00:44:36 It's not just I would say honestly, there is not a mainstream yet.
00:44:41 But neither was population coding 30 years ago when I started.
00:44:46 People gave me no hope of having a career in studying populations of neurons, and here I am.
00:44:54 So I'm used to the idea that you may start with notions and concepts that are not mainstream,
00:44:59 and you need to demonstrate that they're worth. That's part of what science is about.
00:45:04 The problem is science is becoming extremely conservative. And it's very difficult to break through with new ideas.
00:45:09 It's much more difficult than when I started, when I was a kid but we're stubborn.
00:45:14 Speaker 1: Yeah, what are you standing in for? Your ratio works standing in five years.
00:45:21 What is the future of your neuroscientific field?
00:45:23 Speaker 2: Well I think as you can see here, this is going very quickly.
00:45:27 The clinical applications I think are going to grow tremendously.
00:45:31 I think that basic science is going to evolve in the sense that we are going to.
00:45:36 I mean we are accelerating the curve of the number of neurons that we can record simultaneously.
00:45:40 It used to be a very flat, straight line. It took us 30 year to get to 1,000, 2,000.
00:45:47 But now things are accelerating cuz we are learning better ways to do this.
00:45:54 My ambition to the end of my life is to be able to actually formulate this theory.
00:46:00 A comprehensive theory of the mind of the brain, the way we talk just a minute ago.
00:46:08 And that's what I'm doing right now. I'm spending a lot of time writing and reading.
00:46:13 I'm reading literature on communication, Marshall Mcluhan for instance,
00:46:17 I became fascinated by what he used to say in the 60s and 70s about the media being the message.
00:46:24 And how communication has changed our nature.
00:46:29 And from the moving from the oral tradition of poetry of the Greeks, to written manuscripts, then to the print,
00:46:39 to the radio, telegraph, telegraph, to the radio, TV, Internet. I think that actually he got it.
00:46:46 He didn't know anything about the brain, but some of his writings in the 60s
00:46:50 and 70s actually got how relevant communication is to synchronized brains.
00:46:56 Speaker 1: I understand that and the human brain net, is that going to be a fact?
00:47:02 Speaker 2: Well, we're doing as a clinical application that's what we are doing right now
00:47:08 and I want to see how that goes first.
00:47:11 I want to see if it is advantageous to the patients because that's a very concrete
00:47:15 and tangible problem to improve training.
00:47:18 But suppose you have a phasic patient, a patient that suffered stroke that destroyed the left side of the brain,
00:47:25 the cortex and he cannot talk. But the right hemisphere is there.
00:47:30 And there's some language capability left on the right hemisphere.
00:47:34 Suppose you can connect this guy with someone else who can speak.
00:47:38 And you can synthesize voice by having a brain net, working with that stroke patient.
00:47:44 Maybe you can improve the training on the right hemisphere, by plasticity because we know it happens,
00:47:50 even in an adult patient.
00:47:51 If you didn't have any lesion on this side, just this,
00:47:55 you may try to improve the language skills of the right hemisphere. So that's another thing that I want to start soon.
00:48:04 Because they are ten times more stroke victims in the world than spinal chord injury victims.
00:48:10 So you're talking about a quarter of a billion people in the world with stroke consequences.
00:48:16 Speaker 1: So when you develop what you are doing in the way that you can see that more
00:48:24 and more you can have parts of the brain that people for some reason compute or it's almost dead,
00:48:32 you can reactivate it by somebody else?
00:48:34 Speaker 2: Exactly, either by combining the brains with someone else. Suppose you're sibling.
00:48:40 Your wife or your daughter or your son help you in the training. And eventually, it becomes a surrogate.
00:48:47 Now you can talk through this combination or you can communicate.
00:48:51 Because there are lots of patients also that become totally detached from the world.
00:48:56 They're concious, their brains are working, and so they are absolutely conscious.
00:49:00 But for instance, all the muscles, Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS, all the muscles of the body are paralyzed.
00:49:09 So they cannot blink, they cannot talk, they cannot breathe, but they're conscious and their brain is fine.
00:49:10 Their central part of the brain is totally fine. And these patients can barely communicate.
00:49:18 There is a brain machine interface for those patients that my friend in Germany took
00:49:21 and use brain bomb were created by the same time that we were doing experiments with rats.
00:49:26 We didn't even know each other at that time. That works, but it's phenomenal. In news he's a hero for this community.
00:49:33 But it can be improved, and then things can be better, faster. So I think that's where we can go.
00:49:41 Speaker 1: When you look at the brain, the importance of creativity, of intuition.
00:49:47 Speaker 2: Yeah, and that's one of my concerns. Computers are not creative, computers don't generate knowledge, we do.
00:49:55 We get raw information and combine it in ways that cannot be predicted.
00:49:59 And that's the reason, as we talked before, I like painting.
00:50:02 Because painters, I loved when they asked Picasso what the painting meant,
00:50:08 one of the particular paintings that he had that day. And Picasso said, well, if I knew I would not have painted.
00:50:14 And this is it, this is deeper than probably he meant for me as a neuroscientist because it's true.
00:50:21 I think his painting is more of an analog description of what we're thinking and what we're feeling.
00:50:27 This is a projection to the outside world of some internal state of the mind
00:50:34 and that's why I think this transition that we discussed.
00:50:39 The impressionist and in modern art, it was an explosion of form, form disappeared.
00:50:44 While the old guys tended to be very careful about reproducing every corner, every shadow of a scene, of a person,
00:50:54 modern art removed the concept of shape from painting and sculpturing because it didn't matter anymore.
00:51:03 That was a completely different expression, surrealism, cubism.
00:51:07 This is totally linked to the mind view of the brain in the sense of trying to project what is inside rather than
00:51:16 taking a shot of what is out there.
00:51:19 In photography of course, good these guys are business, the guys who painted everything.
00:51:25 As poor amateurs like to still paint this thing. But art, you talk about creativity, art.
00:51:34 My concern is that if we become just computers, art will disappear. Computers don't do art. They tried to mimic.
00:51:41 They can compose artificial music, they can do some text, but they don't carry the human condition in those letters
00:51:49 and those brushes, no?
00:51:52 We do, and I fear that a complete total allegiance
00:51:58 and reliance on technology may destroy the human capability of being creative. Of doing art, of doing the unexpected.
00:52:06 Speaker 1: And a conscious way of brains working together like in soccer or-
00:52:12 Speaker 2: Well, when you saw the soccer fans in the stadium, I think they are.
00:52:18 I created this metaphor and this operational definition of an organic computer.
00:52:24 An organic computer is basically multiple brains that get synchronized in nature by whatever signal.
00:52:31 Visual, tactile, auditory.
00:52:33 That makes them operate as a whole so the flock of birds is my best metaphor or school of fish.
00:52:41 The flock, if you look at the flock,
00:52:43 it's very interesting because you're minimizing the chances of reaching individual to be attacked by a predator.
00:52:52 But the birds change position in the flock. Sometimes they have to go to the front and break the air, they get tired.
00:52:59 They move to the internal center of the flock where they are most protected cuz they're tired.
00:53:07 But there are birds that have to fly on the edge, and at the edge they are more vulnerable.
00:53:11 But they are always rotating.
00:53:12 So there's dynamics in this thing that it seems to be minimizing the chances of being caught.
00:53:19 If you're flying by yourself, a falcon may get you. An eagle may get you much easier.
00:53:25 And as a flock, they are able to get to a source of food,
00:53:29 and they may get there easier than just individual birds looking, so birds and fish have memory like we do.
00:53:40 Speaker 1: So tell me about your other brain projects in Natal.
00:53:43 Speaker 2: Well, Natal is a completely different thing.
00:53:46 It's a parallel track on my life, that it started in 2002, end of 2002, beginning of 2003,
00:53:52 when President Lula was elected here in Brazil.
00:53:55 I was already for a long time in the United States, 14 years already in the United States,
00:54:00 I saw an opportunity to actually return to Brazil and do something.
00:54:06 Not just to do science in Brazil, but to use science as a completely different thing. As a agent of social development.
00:54:14 In a part of Brazil that is well known for Brazilians as being the most underdeveloped part of the country,
00:54:21 in the northeast of the country. And I wanted to prove that human talent is everywhere.
00:54:27 That you could go and just drop from a parachute in a place and you start creating scientific infrastructure.
00:54:36 And you invest in high level education. In a way, that will transform the social reality of the community.
00:54:41 So I chose a small town in the outskirts of the capital of the human artist state and the capital is Natal.
00:54:50 But the city's actually named Macaiba. And so it's the name of a palm tree that is typical division.
00:54:56 And you have 65 inhabitants and the worst human and development indexes in the state
00:55:05 and so we're going to launch here in one of the worst in the country.
00:55:07 And what we did was to go there and to create in parallel to an institute to do neuroscience, like any institute.
00:55:14 To use the knowledge we have as there are scientist who design an education program that actually starts in the
00:55:21 prenatal care of the mothers of our future students.
00:55:26 So because human mortality, women mortality rate was very high, particularly pregnant women mortality rate.
00:55:35 So at that time about 90 women per 100,000 deliveries would die.
00:55:39 So very high, 20, 30 times higher than you should have normally.
00:55:46 We create a clinic, a women's clinic, to oversee the prenatal care of all the women in the region.
00:55:56 And to give an idea, we start from nothing. Now we are doing 12,000 appointments a year.
00:56:03 And we had already 60,000 appointments since we started.
00:56:06 Which means that pretty much every woman in that city that got pregnant in the last six,
00:56:12 seven years had gone through our prenatal care system.
00:56:15 It's all free of charge, it's all public, and it's the best prenatal care you can get that medicine can offer.
00:56:21 Because as neuroscientists we knew then if you don't provide the best possible prenatal care,
00:56:28 any problems that a child will have during pregnancy cannot be fixed.
00:56:33 It's very difficult, it's almost impossible right now.
00:56:36 Any learning disability or any other malformation of the brain it will not be corrected.
00:56:40 So how could you have a neuroscience based education program that doesn't offer these students a chance to be born with
00:56:48 the highest possible neurobiological protection to achieve happiness.
00:56:54 Because that's my definition of education is the pathway to happiness.
00:56:57 So we created this education program that starts in prenatal care
00:57:00 and then we start enrolling 1500 kids a year to three schools that we created.
00:57:08 Two in that state and one in another state, in Viyella. Where the kids go in one part of the day to public school.
00:57:15 Which in Brazil is not full time. It's just four, five hours a day.,
00:57:19 But on the other period of the day they would come to our schools.,
00:57:23 In our schools in Macahiba, Natal, [INAUDIBLE] Zaire are all lab science oriented.
00:57:29 Even to learn portuguese you learn in a lab.
00:57:33 We basically make these guys, these students from that time from 10 to 15 years old.
00:57:40 When we open our new school in the campus, of the brain, that we were building is a 100 hectares campus in that region.
00:57:47 It's taking us seven years to finish that. The school is going to be from zero to 17.
00:57:52 So from the moment they are born, they can go to the nursery, to the moment they finish high school,
00:57:59 they are going to be in our school, if they want.
00:58:02 Then, we are going to have an undergrad program in the campus for kids that want to pursue a scientific career.
00:58:10 Master's, PhD, and postdoctoral training.
00:58:14 So we're going to have a program that means that a kid can be there for 30 years, if they want.
00:58:17 But in the case of this science education program that we created on the opposite period of the day from public school
00:58:27 these kids became Protagonists in their own education.
00:58:31 They basically got involved in learning as a pleasant experience.
00:58:35 And they develop an ethics of learning that we never saw in the region,
00:58:41 in the most parts of Brazil because they don't go to our schools because they have to, they go because they want to.
00:58:46 And that school became a school not only for science but for developing citizens.
00:58:53 Citizens they are fully aware of their rights.
00:58:55 Fully aware of their responsiblity in society and fully aware that science
00:58:59 and knowledge can be the passports for their happiness, for their further education.
00:59:05 And this thing multiplied to a point that we have already 11,000 kids that have gone through this schooling system.
00:59:11 And for the first time in the place history, Macahiba, in the neighborhoods next to it,
00:59:18 these kids are gaining access to the best universities in Brazil.
00:59:22 In their vision, public universities where they could never make it cuz they never could pass the admissions exam.
00:59:28 Even though our schools don't have exams, we don't do tests. We don't believe in tests.
00:59:32 We don't believe in the Anglo-Saxon punitive way of teaching.
00:59:36 We believe in the Finnish way, without knowing we have replicated a Finnish approach to a location in Brazil.
00:59:43 Without knowing until very recently that we're very similar parallels with one caveat that the Finnish have not learned
00:59:49 yet. We do the education since the prenatal care. So and now the women, our partners too.
00:59:57 We created a community that is very supportive of everything we do because different from universities in the world
01:00:04 that really are this beautiful paradises of knowledge
01:00:08 but the surrounding parts of the university have nothing to do with the university
01:00:11 and have no idea what is going on inside the doors. I see that particularly in United States and even here in Brazil.
01:00:18 We create a campus that has no walls. It's totally powerless to the community.
01:00:25 And the community has learned the value of science.
01:00:28 Because science is not for paper, books, applications, acquisition, knowledge.
01:00:32 Science in Matal, in Macahiba, we demonstrate that science can also be an agent of social and economic transformation.
01:00:39 Because in addition to promoting education in women's health, we have created a whole cascade of jobs,
01:00:46 an entire production line of suppliers, people that make construction work because we are building a campus.
01:00:54 So it is very nice to see the fathers of our children building this campus, they work for the construction company,
01:01:02 that has built. And the first build, they're gigantic buildings. They're 12000 square meter research institute.
01:01:10 And then there are 12000 square meter school.
01:01:13 Speaker 1: Very good, quite impressive. I think when I hear you, I think dreaming It's very important.
01:01:25 Speaker 2: Yeah.
01:01:25 Speaker 1: For science.
01:01:25 Speaker 2: The soup title of my new book about the Natal, Macahiba project is how to be a utopia.
01:01:27 A scientific social utopia because in our days utopia has become almost like a curse word, a negative word.
01:01:39 And I disagree frontally with that.
01:01:42 I think we have to have utopias and dreams, even if we don't fulfill them completely.
01:01:47 It's very important to be engaged in one, because of the process makes us want to get out of our house
01:01:52 and go out here in this pretty tough cruel world and actually do something complete.
01:01:59 And in Natal, I think that's what happened. We had Brazilians coming from all over the country.
01:02:06 Teachers, scientists, physicians, administrators, technicians who believed in the utopia
01:02:14 and now they can put their hands on these walls and they can see these kids getting to the university.
01:02:20 And so, it's a very rewarding experience.
01:02:23 In fact, it's one of the things that when I go to Natal, I feel the real meaning of science.
01:02:30 When I look and hear these patients and I go to Natal, I actually feel it was worth it, these 35 years of work.
01:02:38 Neuroscience you also need dreaming, I suppose.
01:02:40 Absolutely, yeah, we need dreaming for a variety of reasons but in neuroscience, yes.
01:02:46 I think if you equate, as we discussed before, if we equate neuroscience
01:02:49 or any science just with technology development, you're missing the most important part of it.
01:02:55 It's this dream, it's this creativity, it's trying to answer questions that nobody has ever asked
01:03:01 or nobody ever had an answer for.
01:03:04 So the first time that John and I recorded 26 neurals simultaneously in a little rat, in our labs,
01:03:11 in the middle of the night.
01:03:12 First,
01:03:13 he told me that there was a good thing we could share a lawyer for our divorces because we're there five in the morning
01:03:18 recording a rat brain. And our wives will never believe that we're actually doing it.
01:03:23 But the second thing we thought, both of us in Philadelphia in 91 was this is going to change everything
01:03:31 and nobody knew. But we knew, we were the first one to see those 26 neurons fine together.
01:03:36 And it may sound little but for us that was the universe, that was the thing that changed our lives.
01:03:43 Speaker 1: You were talking about technology being, people that only believe in technology for a solution.
01:03:49 And that sends off thinking of Silicon Valley.
01:03:52 Speaker 2: Well yeah, I think those guys are living in a bubble.
01:03:56 They're very interesting things that they have created
01:03:58 and they're very interesting things that have changed the world that have created
01:04:03 but they're not the gods of the universe. That they think they are And a lot of hopeless and arrogance there too.
01:04:08 There's a very, a lot of talent people and a lot of gifted people.
01:04:13 But you just need to go to San Francisco
01:04:15 and ask the opinions of the people who live in San Francisco before this thing explodes, Silicon Valley,
01:04:21 and what is going on there.
01:04:23 Because a lot of people there believe that technology will solve all our problems, and that's not true.
01:04:28 Our problems will be solved by the good old-fashioned way of humans interacting
01:04:34 and trying to find a consensus to live together.
01:04:36 Through democracy, through political engagement, through social engagement,
01:04:42 through recognizing that the knowledge of the body is more With the same opportunities
01:04:46 and work to increase the opportunities to everybody.
01:04:50 And try to look for a way so everybody can seek happiness and achieve a good amount of it, not perhaps everything,
01:04:58 but a good amount, everybody makes life decent for everybody.
01:05:03 And to believe that we're going to solve all of the problems of the universe through Facebook, Twitter, or to robots,
01:05:10 or artificial intelligence is iudicrous.
01:05:12 Is in fact, in my opinion, a new wave of where you have to reduce human value,
01:05:23 you have to devalue the human contribution.
01:05:24 Because then, if you deduce human cost of labor, you increase profits to infinity as a very well-known equation.
01:05:33 You cannot eliminate human value, it is obvious.
01:05:37 But so in some senses, in a very main sense, some of the prophecies that is gurus like Kurzweil
01:05:47 and others have made that we are going to be replaced are not only foolish and not based on any scientific data.
01:05:57 They're dangerous in my opinion, they actually confront us with the fact that there has to be an answer to that,
01:06:03 and the answer is that we are humans.
01:06:06 And our most value, most precious capabilities are not out there for a digital computer to replace.
01:06:17 Speaker 1: It's neglecting the value of the brain.
01:06:19 Speaker 2: It's neglecting the value of the human species, in my opinion.
01:06:22 Millions and millions, billions of years of evolution they took us from a piece of rock,
01:06:31 or star dust to a thinking creative, non-conformist human brain.
01:06:40 And it's destroying the fabric of humanity in my opinion. So, we need to be aware of it and confirm these guys.
01:07:00 Speaker 1: [INAUDIBLE] I think.
01:07:00 Speaker 2: Yeah.
01:07:00 Speaker 3: Maybe it's a bit off track, but most of the time when you interview brain specialists. It's very brainy.
01:07:04 Speaker 2: Yeah.
01:07:04 Speaker 3: That when we look around here, all the metaphors, so to speak, or what we see,
01:07:07 is actually very cooperate-able, very with the body, very connected to movement.
01:07:11 And so, it's not, even when you say the brain is the center of the universe, it's so much acted out through all these-
01:07:31 Speaker 2: Yeah, well that's the difference of a technician and a scientist.
01:07:34 My professor here in Brazil, which was the father of neuroscience in Brazil, Cesar Te Maria.
01:07:39 Always told me, there's a big difference between a technician and a scientist.
01:07:42 A technician builds gizmos and runs things like a robot.
01:07:46 A scientist thinks like a human, and thinks about science in broader terms than just a specific field
01:07:54 or a specific area of his or her work.
01:07:59 I think we scientists almost need, by default, to have a very profound and deep intellectual background
01:08:07 and we need to think about the consequences of what we do. The legacy of what we do and the way our science is used.
01:08:14 We didn't talk about this, but there's a very near danger of weaponizing the brain.
01:08:18 And I'm totally opposed to it because this is the last frontier.
01:08:23 And I don't want to see what I did, what I created, called brain meshing interfaces, being used to harm or kill people.
01:08:31 So-
01:08:31 Speaker 1: [INAUDIBLE]
01:08:32 Speaker 2: Well, you can imagine this is happening now in some places,
01:08:36 particularly in the United States where Department of Defense is thinking about using brain machine interfaces to
01:08:41 create weapons. That humans can control just by thinking.
01:08:45 And I firmly oppose this and I think that neuroscientists speak out against this kind of use of this research.
01:08:54 Speaker 1: It's a good question. Or a good statement you're saying, because that is true.
01:09:05 The moment you cross the border of knowledge again-
01:09:05 Speaker 2: Yes. And our only hope is society.
01:09:08 Because we scientists push the envelope to discover what is possible, but is society's duty
01:09:13 and right to regulate what can be done with this knowledge around the world.
01:09:18 Speaker 1: When you say the human brain interface concept, you said? That's more than connecting therapist and patient?
01:09:30 Speaker 2: Yeah, what people are thinking there is totally, I mean, it's totally for me unethical.
01:09:38 Speaker 1: What are they thinking of?
01:09:40 Speaker 2: Well,
01:09:40 they're thinking about implanting soldiers with electrodes to record brain activity we can use to control guns
01:09:45 or weapons or whatever. I don't know the details because I refuse to even listen to the details.
01:09:51 But this is a debate that has to be done among scientists and society not only among neuroscientists yes.
01:09:58 Speaker 1: You mean, you create an exoskeleton, but you put it inside.
01:10:07 Speaker 2: No no, you get signals from the brain to control a machine gun or a missile launcher device, god knows what,
01:10:15 I don't know, or an exoskeleton for a soldier to go to war.
01:10:17 And that's not what I had in mind when I created this technology. This is what I had in mind.,
01:10:23 Speaker 1: Cuz when you envision, not this part, but [CROSSTALK] but
01:10:26 when you envision a world where this brain nets with work, how far can it go?
01:10:38 Speaker 2: Well, at this point I told you I don't have, it's just superstitions and hints,
01:10:44 and gut feeling to describe it. I cannot tell you precisely what it could go.
01:10:50 I think about as I told you, potential applications that can be beneficial to mankind,
01:10:57 and to people that are suffering from disorders or diseases.
01:11:00 But I don't even think of sci-fi scenarios that are harmful.
01:11:05 Speaker 1: [INAUDIBLE]
01:11:06 Speaker 2: Well, I think that if we could communicate better.
01:11:11 If we could find a way of communication that is more natural
01:11:14 and better perhaps we will figure it out that we all the same,
01:11:19 that we have the same fears no matter where you came from, we have same aspirations, we have same desires,
01:11:23 we are all human by the way.
01:11:25 And I look at things like the refugee crisis in Europe,
01:11:32 perhaps by brain to brain communicating we realize that we are all coming from the same place and, by the way,
01:11:40 the place was Africa. And so, race prejudice, prejudice based on economic differences, on religion.
01:11:52 All these things would disappear if we could somehow convince people that what goes through in our brains is the same
01:11:59 thing, it's the same stuff. And what our brains produce is the same.
01:12:04 Speaker 1: So, when you look in the future brain communication will be more and more elaborate?
01:12:08 Speaker 2: I hope it could become more and more elaborate.
01:12:14 In fact, if you read Arthur Clarke's 3001, the last book of his series that is titled 2001.
01:12:22 He starts the book with something called brain caps in 3001 and people communicate by brain caps in 3001.
01:12:29 He would be happy to know that we're a thousand years early in getting some of the stuff to work.
01:12:42 Of course, what he described I don't think will ever happen,
01:12:54 but it's interesting to see that neuroscience can even compete with science fiction.
01:12:56 Speaker 3: Elaborating on that last one, the film Avatar came out in 2008 and it seems now 2015 we're already on that-
01:13:01 Speaker 2: I always wanted to ask Cameron where he got the idea. Because he claims he had a dream.
01:13:04 We had published many scientific papers before he had that dream I think.
01:13:13 So,
01:13:13 I always wonder where he got that idea of having a guy in a machine controlling an avatar because this was out there.
01:13:15 I would be very, very curious to ask him where he really got the idea.
01:13:22 Speaker 1: And he-
01:13:22 Speaker 2: That's the director of the film, you know? Cameron.
01:13:24 Speaker 3: But as far as the technical aspect is concern-
01:13:28 Speaker 2: No, there are many things there that are not possible of course and he just made it up.
01:13:35 Which is the advantage od science fiction to us, we cannot make it up.
01:13:38 Speaker 1: Yeah, but when you really work, collaborate on what you are doing and what other neuroscientists are doing,
01:13:45 we work on the frontier of knowledge in that sense. It's unimaginable what is possible when it works-
01:13:54 Speaker 2: Yeah, as I tell all my students always, imagination is always the limit here.
01:13:58 Speaker 1: Yeah.
01:13:59 Speaker 2: And in this labs we're not here to do the mundane and the incremental things,
01:14:05 we are here to push the limit of neuroscience.
01:14:08 Speaker 1: So, the imagination is the only limit when you look at the possibilities.
01:14:15 Speaker 2: Yes, but of course, the time scale is not tomorrow.
01:14:19 But I like to work with people that likes the deal, the deal of thinking far ahead and trying to make it happen.
TV Get inspired and watch tv episodes of The Mind of the Universe, made by Dutch public broadcaster VPRO
  • Browse through over 30 hours of interviews
  • Download the interviews, including subtitles
  • Remix, re-use and edit under CC-BY-SA license
  • Start exploring