Scientific Research and Scientific Dissemination Projects
Walk Again Project
The primary mission of the Walk Again Project was the creation of the first human brain-controlled exoskeleton to restore gait in people with lower-limb paralysis.Result of the collaborative research of the Walk Again international consortium, the exoskeleton was successfully developed, presenting not only a brain-controlled interface but also a sensory substitution system that provides to the user the sensation that its foot touches the ground during the walk. The feasibility of the exoskeleton was publically demonstrated at the 2014 Word Cup opening ceremony in Brazil by one of the research volunteers that performed the inaugural kick (and felt the touch of the ball !).
Besides the development of the exoskeleton, the Walk Again Project had other two unprecedented results, of great scientific impact, and enormous potential to help people with spinal cord lesion: the creation of the Neurorehabilitation Protocol - a training routine combining the use of a brain-machine interface, virtual reality, and sensorial substitution that, when systematically applied, resulted in partial neurological improvement in paraplegic volunteers; and the brain-controlled muscle stimulation system – a technology that allows the paraplegic user to walk using brain control, and minimal assistance.
The first phase of the Walk Again Project was held from December 2012 to June 2019, with financial resources from FINEP (Financing Agency for Studies and Projects). A new phase is being implemented, still focusing on the application of brain-machine interfaces in neurorehabilitation.
Master's Program in Neuroengineering
The Master's program in Neuroengineering, recognized and recommended by the Technical and Scientific Council (CTC) of CAPES, was another initiative of AASDAP to strengthen scientific education, and it was the first graduate program in neuroengineering in Brazil. Since 2014, the coordination of this program has been carried out by the Santos Dumont Institute (ISD).
Brain-Machine Interface Institute of Science and Technology (INCeMaq).
Project under the Program of National Science and Technology Institutes of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq/MCT), focused on the research on the Brain-Machine Interface (BMI). The project was effective from 2009 to 2017 and had resources from CNPq and FAPERN.
The research lines developed in INCeMaq were: Brain-Machine Interface – development and biocompatibility of multielectrode matrices, decoding of the activity of neuronal populations and generation of commands for devices;
Spinal Cord Neuromodulation – development of epidural stimulation electrodes; behavioral, electrophysiological, and immunohistochemical evaluation of the effects of the stimulation.
Among the studies carried out under the INCeMaq, we can mention the first technological development activities of the Walk Again Project.
In addition to the basic and applied research on BMI, INCeMaq also had a program of scientific initiation for high school students of the public schools of Natal and Macaíba, named Scientists of the Future. The Program of Scientists of the Future provided activities with scientific content at the science frontier and allowed the insertion of 54 students in the practice of data collection and interpretation, in the discussion, and in the application of solutions in real challenges. The activities of the Project of Scientists of the Future are described in the photo book.
1st CAPES and IINN-ELS / UFRN Summer School
The 1st CAPES and IINN-ELS / UFRN Summer School was an initiative of researchers from AASDAP and professors of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) with resources from the Program of School of Higher Studies of CAPES and AASDAP to promote the scientific-cultural exchange of students enrolled in Master's and Doctorate programs.
The School was held from July 1 to August 29, 2008 at the Research Center of AASDAP, located in Macaíba, RN, Brazil. There, nine courses were offered, taught by 23 renowned neuroscientists:
Dr. Alan Rudolph – Adlyfe Inc., USA
Dr. Gordon Cheng – ATR International, Japan
Memory and Learning
Dr. Susan Sara – Collège de France
Dr. Jan Born – University of Luebeck, Germany
Dr. Federico Bermudez-Rattoni – Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
Dr. Rick Lin – University of Mississippi, USA
Dr. David Spray – AECOM, Yeshiva University, USA
Dr. Evan Evans - UBC, Canadá / Boston University, USA
Dr. Claudio Mello - OHSU, EUA
Dra. Constance Scharff – FU-Berlin / Max Planck, Germany
Dr. Asif Ghazanfar - Princeton University, USA
Dr. Marshall Shuler – Johns Hopkins University, USA
Dra. Anna Nobre – University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Dr. Mariano Sigman – Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dr. Sidney Simon - Duke University, USA
Dr. Yves Frégnac – INAF, CNRS, France
Dr. Pedro Maldonado – Universidad de Chile, Chile
Dr. Horacio de la Iglesia – University of Washington, USA
Dr. Mikhail Lebedev – Duke University, USA
Dr. Gabriel Mindlin - Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dr. Erika Fanselow – University of Pittsburgh, EUA
Development and Neurotherapy
Dr. Jean Rossier – École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles, France
Dr. Manuel Kukuljan – Universidad de Chile, Chile
Fifty graduate students from several Brazilian states were selected to participate in all classes of the School, with the expenses borne by the initiative. All federal and state universities in Brazil were invited to participate in the online broadcast of the Summer School. The interested universities received a password, which ensured the transmission of the lectures and the interaction by chat with professors in real time. Access to the lectures in real time was also open to the public. Lectures were broadcast in English (original) and Portuguese (simultaneous interpretation). During the two months of the event, the School's website received 611 registrations for access to the broadcasts, and it was accessed 11,967 times.
Second Symposium in Neuroscience of the International Institute of Neurosciences of Natal
The Second Symposium in Neuroscience of the International Institute of Neurosciences of Natal was held from February 23 to 25, 2007 at Hotel Sehrs in Natal, Brazil. The Symposium was attended by 666 registered and renowned neuroscientists from around the world who presented the advances in brain research, from the molecular and cellular levels to the neurobiology of systems, behavior, and neuroengineering. To access the Annals of the Second Symposium click here.
During this Symposium, the partnership between AASDAP and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation was announced and the name of the International Institute of Neurosciences of Natal (IINN) was changed to International Institute of Neurosciences of Natal – Edmond and Lily Safra (IINN-ELS).
Dopaminergic regulation of REM sleep / Corticostriatal mechanisms underlying dopamine-related motor dysfunction
Projects developed at the Rio Grande do Norte Research Centers in a partnership between AASDAP and the Edmond J. Safra Foundation.
Resources from the Edmond J. Safra Foundation enabled the implementation and maintenance of specialized spaces for research on Parkinson's disease at the Natal Research Center (vivarium of wild and DAT-KO mice, Parkinson's disease model, molecular biology laboratory, and surgical center for mice) and the Macaíba Research Center (vivarium of primates, equipment for surgery, and experimentation of Parkinson's disease models), as well as the acquisition of equipment and consumables needed for these studies.
Taste sensitivity according to genotype and metabotype.
A project conducted at the Laboratory of AASDAP within the Institute of Studies and Research of the Sírio Libanês Hospital, as part of an international scientific collaboration between Duke University, AASDAP, and EPFL, coordinated by the International Neuroscience Network Foundation (INNF) and fostered by the Nestle Research Center.
The project was effective between 2007 and 2011. As part of the scientific collaboration, AASDAP carried out medical evaluation, psychogenetic taste tests, and urine and blood collection of the research participants.
Neurotechnological Center Focused on Interfaces: Brain-Machine, Learning, Sleep, and Language
Project supported by FINEP, effective between 2006 and 2012, with participation of AASDAP, UFRN, and the Sírio Libanês Hospital.
This agreement contributed to the implementation of the first AASDAP Research Center in Natal through the acquisition of equipment and consumables that enabled biocompatibility studies for brain-machine interfaces, immunohistochemistry in rodents and nonhuman primates, learning, sleep, and language. In partnership with UFRN, experimental animal behavioral and neuroanatomy studies were performed. In partnership with HSL, a study was carried out to test electrodes in the brain of patients with Parkinson's disease for the treatment of motor disorders.
First Neuroscience Symposium of the International Institute of Neurociences of Natal
The First Neuroscience Symposium of the International Institute of Neurosciences of Natal (IINN) was held from 03 to 07 March 2004 at Hotel Pirâmide in Natal, RN.
This event brought together about 300 participants and distinguished scientists such as Erwin Neher (Max Planck Institute, Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1991), Susan Greenfield (Oxford University), Idan Segev (Hebrew University), Jon Kaas (Vanderbilt University), Mriganka Sur ( Massachusetts Institute of Technology), among others who came to Natal to present and discuss the main scientific advances in neuroscience, the new directions of science in Brazil, and also to support the official launch of the project of the IINN.
To access the Annals of the First Symposium click here.
2003 - 2005
Implementation of the International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal
The International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal (IINN) was created based on the premise that countries investing in science achieve great social changes, reflected by the growth of their gross domestic product (GDP). Thus, investment in science could be the key to reducing the existing economic and social inequalities between Brazil and developed countries, but mainly for reducing existing inequalities within Brazil, between its geographic regions.
In this context, the IINN project's main objective was to establish a “Brain Campus” in a Brazilian region with a low human development index (HDI) and located outside the Rio-São Paulo axis of investments in Science and Technology (S&T). This campus - containing centers for scientific research, education, sports, and health - would allow the science produced there to permeate and transform the local community through education, health care, and technological development.
The implementation of the IINN took place between 2003 and 2005, with fundraising and the establishment of partnerships, the creation of a legal organization for project management, and the definition of strategies for the beginning of the activities. The first resources for the IINN were obtained by Dr. Nicolelis from Duke University, Avina Foundation, Hospital Infantil Sabará, Hospital Sírio Libanês, and partnerships with the federal government. Additional funds were raised through the initiative of individual supporters. Important partnerships were also established with UFRN and the government of Macaíba city, resulting in the donation of land in Macaíba city (29km from Natal) to house the Brain Campus and a Health Center.
Due to its greatness and innovation, the IINN project received prominence in local, national, and international newspapers, including Nature and Science, two of the most important scientific journals in the world. In March 2004, during the 1st IINN Neuroscience Symposium, the project was officially launched, with the support of renowned neuroscientists from around the world.
Since the creation of the Alberto Santos Dumont Association for Research Support (AASDAP) in April 2004, the implementation of the IINN has moved forward with an alternative work proposal. Faced with the prospect of delaying the start of the works on the Brain Campus, AASDAP started the establishment of pilot IINN units. As a result, research, education, and health activities started respectively in 2005, 2007 and 2008, in Natal and Macaíba. Over the years, the establishment of partnerships and projects has enabled these units to become centers of reference, proving the viability of IINN, even in its “alternative” format.