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Researchers make part-living, part-mechanical circuit

By Leadfoot180 in Technology
Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 11:22:57 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

Scientists for the first time have linked multiple brain cells with silicon chips to create a part-mechanical, part-living electronic circuit.

The Washington Post reported on a group of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Germany that placed neurons onto transistor chips and noticed that they communicated with each other and with the chips.

This demonstrations leads the way for potential advantages in the construction of artificial retinas, prosthetic limbs, and who knows what else. These developments would be an extension to the nervous system. The main idea of this is to combine the mechanical abilities of electronic circuits with the complexity and intelligence of the human brain.

These combinantions of biology and technology will possibly (and most likely) help the blind to see, the paralyzed move objects witht their thoughts, and robots having the same type of nervous system humans do, deserving the respect of being called intelligent.

Each cell was positioned over a Field Effect Transistor, a device that is capable of amplifying tiny voltages, and a stimulator to prod the cell into activity. This process was repeated 20 times over and the researchers stimulated various cells, which in turn, emitted electrical signals. Biophysicist Peter Fromherz plans to build a 15,000 neruon-transistor based systems. If and when the number gets large enough, a peek could be available on what actually happens in the brain: neurons forming complex computations, thoughts, consciousness, the interlinking activity between the brain's regions, and the complexity of the reaction process humans have.

I am advocate for science, technology, and man's collaboration with it and no doubt this might arise some problems with those who believe technology is the downfall of society. The debates over cloning are still raging on and now, we discovered a new characteristic in science and technology in order to possibly give machines control over of their own mechanical instincts. The brain is possibly the greatest invention we have and for so long, it has been researched to understand its characteristics and why exactly it operates the way it does. Now, once we've uncovered a portion of that (the brain is a map of endless boundaries), AI could be an actual reality.


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Researchers make part-living, part-mechanical circuit | 26 comments (17 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
Similar research with rat neurons (4.16 / 6) (#1)
by mbrubeck on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 11:26:00 PM EST

The keynote speaker for my school's research presentations this year was Steve Potter of Caltech. Potter's presentation was insanely cool. He talked about his research on biological neural nets of a few thousand rat brain cells, placed atop electrical circuits which give them a two-way connection to a computer system.

The network of cells "lives" inside a simulated world in the computer. Essentially they are playing a 3D game. The virual view of the world is translated into a signal which is sent to the neural net; the cells' electrical activity controls the movement through the environment. The researchers don't know if the resulting paths show any sort of learning or other complex responses, but they can show that they are not just random noise, and that they do respond differently to different inputs.

In terms of results they don't have much, but they've developed a really great set of tools and techniques for studing brain cells and biological-electrical interfaces.

There are two things wrong. (3.50 / 4) (#7)
by delmoi on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 04:27:01 AM EST

Scientists for the first time have linked multiple brain cells with silicon chips to create a part-mechanical, part-living electronic circuit.

First, that's an electrical circuit, not a mechanical one. There's nothing 'mechanical' about it.

And secondly, this has been done time and time again. Maybe this is the first time that human cells have been placed in a circuit, but I doubt it.

Perhaps if the researchers had placed a cheap Radio Shack motor on the circuit, you would be right. However, that would be a relatively uninteresting story.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
Nope, snails (4.25 / 4) (#8)
by mbrubeck on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 04:48:24 AM EST

And secondly, this has been done time and time again. Maybe this is the first time that human cells have been placed in a circuit, but I doubt it.
Actually, these scientists are using snail neurons. Go figure.

It seems that the breakthrough in this case is that they have a one-to-one interface between cells and transistors. Each neuron is positioned exactly onto a single transistor and can be manipulated and sensed individually. This gives a much finer level of control than the other projects I'm familiar with. Stimulating large groups of physically close cells seems crude compared to this.

I haven't yet read any published results from the Planck Institute group, so I don't have the exact details behind their claims.

[ Parent ]

Snails better qualified? (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by Tatarigami on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 06:24:27 PM EST

Apparently, snails have bigger neurons than either humans or rats, which made them easier to work with.

I choose to interpret this as a compliment for humanity over the compactness of our grey matter rather than any kind of victory for the snails. If the little bastards were really smarter, they'd stay the hell away from my lettuce.

[ Parent ]
actually yes, it is mechanical (none / 0) (#26)
by protocadherin on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 01:34:55 PM EST

Though not in the sense the author was referring to. The living snail cells do have a mechanical aspect to them- namely the opening and closing of potassium and sodium voltage gated channels along the cell body. Without the physical opening of these channels, an action potential cannot occur.

[ Parent ]
Screw AI, NeuRomance me! (4.40 / 5) (#13)
by DangerGrrl on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 11:54:08 AM EST

I want sharps under my fingernails that spring out on command.
I want mirrored lens optic implants that give me infrared and the atomic clock time flashing in the corner.
I want hightened agility and strength from a link of circutry.
I want to be able to project realistic hologram hallucinations based on my inagination
I want to see the sky the color of a television tuned to a dead channel.

TV sets (4.00 / 3) (#15)
by delmoi on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 07:34:15 PM EST

Whats weird is that most modern, computerized TVs are blue when they don't have a signal. A little darker then sky blue, of course.

"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
You know... (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by DangerGrrl on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 09:03:55 PM EST

So there is probably a whole bunch of people who aren't going to get that references meaning because of digital.
That saddens me for some reason
But if you go to NYC on a hazy cloudy night, and go to the CitibankMall Building (which also has a church, who's entry way is via this shopping center - oh the irony) on 50th or about that area - and look up...
I always thought that is what the sky would look like if it were tuned into a dead channel. Took my breath away to see a living litterary reference... even if it was New York and not Chiba.

[ Parent ]
describe (none / 0) (#18)
by Refrag on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 10:36:43 PM EST

Can you describe what you're talking about? I don't plan to go to New York.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

I can try... (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by DangerGrrl on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 03:02:46 PM EST

My memory is a little fuzzy, this was about four years ago, but here you go:

You walk out of the subway station after taking a long escelator up. You are let out into a open area of a sunken entrance to a glass building. More stairs put you on street level.

It is night time. The sky seems to have a dark reddish hue to it. As you make your asscent to the street, you notice the lights from the buildings, bouncing off this crimson curtian... as if they are all calling for the Dark Knight.

You walk a bit to the north, and notice a church. The entrance to it is not apparent. It is a modern building, all diagonal angles supporting a cross. You walk back south a bit and notice that an enterance to the glass building is also the enterance to the church.

For reasons unknown, you cross the street, and look up at the two symbiotic structures. The glass building is bright at the top, like a homing beackon to the church of the almighty dollar.

The sky all around the towers tip is like static. You can see all the particles of polution and mist dancing around each other. Black and white and gray, with no seeming order in their coreography. You are repulsed a little, thinking "I breathe this shit in..."

Suddenly it hits you, this is what Gibson meant. This is a sky the color of a telivision tuned into a dead channel.

[ Parent ]
The sky over the port was... (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by wiml on Mon Sep 03, 2001 at 12:31:30 AM EST

I wonder how many people there are reading k5 or c'punk or whatever who've never seen actual TV static, only the clear blue that modern TVs produce?

In Gaiman's Neverwhere, there's a description of the sky as "the clear featureless blue of a television tuned to a dead channel". Ken MacLeod makes a riff on this in The Sky Road, too.

[ Parent ]

No such effect :( (none / 0) (#23)
by ronin212 on Tue Sep 04, 2001 at 12:37:52 PM EST

Welp, since this was about a 15 minute walk from my apartment, I went and checked it out and definitely did not see such an effect.

DangerGrrl: should I have been under the influence? Will be happy to repeat experiment; what is the appropritate entheogen and dosage?

Now is the time... get on the right side! You'll be godlike.
[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 0) (#24)
by DangerGrrl on Tue Sep 04, 2001 at 01:16:59 PM EST

1. Was it a hazy/drizzling night?
2. Was it humid?
3. Was it cloudy?
4. Had you just got done reading Neuromancer?

Maybe I just have a more vivid imagination than you?
This was actualy a time before I ingested any sevearly mind altering substances.
/me shrugs.
One person can look at something and see the fantastic, another can look at the same thing and see only that which is cold and mundane. Perhaps it was that was not LOOKING for such a thing, I just happened upon it.

[ Parent ]
City At Night (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by Verminator on Sun Sep 02, 2001 at 08:16:12 PM EST

I've always been fascinated by summer nights in LA. The fog comes in over the city and reflects the lights. The sky radiates a diseased orange. It's like being in a drug induced haze, the sky has ceased to exist and the orange cloud is the limit of your consciousness. It has a physical presence, confining you in a warm coccoon to the urbanity below. It makes me think of the future, when stars are a distant memory and you go to sleep every night under that orange death.
If the whole country is gonna play 'Behind The Iron Curtain,' there better be some fine fucking state subsidized alcohol! And our powerlifting team better kick ass!
[ Parent ]
Tuned to a dead channel (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by jabber on Tue Sep 04, 2001 at 09:17:50 AM EST

I always thought that is what the sky would look like if it were tuned into a dead channel.

How amazingly poigniant a thing to say. It would be even more so if you claimed to be agnostic, but still.

I think it's truly depressing that, in an age of digital everything, Gibsons reference only resonates with those old enough to know what things were like before the Bluescreen of nothingness.

I vividly remember what dead channels look like. They've always been a rather soothing sight, especially when coupled with the sound inherent in the lack of a coherent signal. What makes the experience even more profound for me is the knowledge that I am not in fact seeing and hearing nothingness but rather the background noise of the universe. In this noise is a tiny trace of the background radiation of the Cosmos, the electromagnetic residue of the Big Bang - the Primal Scream of God Itself, if you will.

It saddens me to think that now, we have 'evolved' to the point where nothingness is a single wavelength, recognizable by all children with access to cable or Windows, the color of a sky forever blue, singular and featureless, yet nauseating in it's artificiality.

Gibsons characters in the books which follow Neuromances chronologically, refer to the time at the end of Neuromances as 'when it changed'.. I see this as the moment when it 'changed back', and 'when it changed' has already past us by. It 'changed' when God was forced out of the background nothing which surrounds us, and replaced with the aseptic hue so deep that the eye slides off of it. It will 'change back' when God returns - by whatever means that takes.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

HDTV (none / 0) (#17)
by Refrag on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 10:35:17 PM EST

HDTV is green when there is not enough signal. It's a very bright green, almost like greenscreen. Of course, if there is not enough signal to display anything, my TV just displays black.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

I want to look out at the sky and see... (none / 0) (#25)
by SIGFPE on Wed Sep 05, 2001 at 11:29:52 AM EST

...in white letters emblazoned across a deep blue sky: Kernel Panic. Dumping Core...
[ Parent ]
Researchers make part-living, part-mechanical circuit | 26 comments (17 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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