Implanting electrical devices in the nervous system to treat neural diseases is becoming very common. The success of these brain-machine interfaces depends on the electrodes that come into contact with the neural tissue. Here we show that conventional tungsten and stainless steel wire electrodes can be coated with carbon nanotubes using electrochemical techniques under ambient conditions. The carbon nanotube coating enhanced both recording and electrical stimulation of neurons in culture, rats and monkeys by decreasing the electrode impedance and increasing charge transfer. Carbon nanotube-coated electrodes are expected to improve current electrophysiological techniques and to facilitate the development of long-lasting brain-machine interface devices.