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Scientists Couple Nerve Tissues With Computer Chip 92

patiwat writes "Recalling Ghost in the Shell, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried have coupled living brain tissue to a semiconductor chip. This technique involves culturing razor-thin slices of the hippocampus region on the chip, enabling them to record neural communication between thousands of nerve cells in the brain tissue slice. The hippocampus is associated with temporary storage of memory. Employing the new technique, the scientists working under the direction of Peter Fromherz were able to visualize the influence of pharmaceutical compounds on the neural network, making the 'brainchip' an exciting test bed for neuropharmaceutical research, with potential for further development in neurochip prosthetics and neurocomputation. The researchers reported this news in the online edition of the Journal of Neurophysiology (May 10, 2006)."
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Scientists Couple Nerve Tissues With Computer Chip

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  • by Vo0k ( 760020 )
    How long till neural joint for 100% immersive all-senses VR?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Nice, but does the chip run linux ? Would it if the slices were taken from a penguin ?

    Anyway I for one welcome our living hyppocampus-sliced brainchip overlords.
  • by frilledren ( 671593 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @05:44AM (#15460839)
    I work in neuroscience, and Fromherz has been doing this for a long time:
    A neuron-silicon junction: a Retzius cell of the leech on an insulated-gate field-effect transistor.
    Science. 1991 May 31;252(5010):1290-3.
    pdf []
    All the same, it is an interesting field, but don't let this post lead you to believe that he (and others) haven't already been doing this for 15 years.
  • by RocketRainbow ( 750071 ) <> on Saturday June 03, 2006 @05:47AM (#15460843) Homepage Journal
    Hooray! Now there seems a real chance that one day doctors will be able to graft one of those whatsits onto the prefrontal thingey and cure my attention something something disorder!

    Resistance is futile!
    • Re:Repair my brain? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by numbski ( 515011 ) * <(numbski) (at) (> on Saturday June 03, 2006 @05:56AM (#15460857) Homepage Journal
      I know you're trying to be funny, but the first thoughts that come to my mind when I saw this were:

      1. This means at some point we'll be able to control electronics with our brain.
      2. This means at some point electronics will be able to control us.

      I/O is a funny thing like that. Who is telling who what to do?
      • Ah but your neural inhibitors will keep the mechanical arms from taking over your brain for only so long!
      • I know you're trying to be funny, but the first thoughts that come to my mind when I saw this were:

        1. This means at some point we'll be able to control electronics with our brain.
        2. This means at some point electronics will be able to control us.

        Dont worry, your brain will be under influence of DRM and IP of your government.
      • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @07:56AM (#15461041)
        I know you're trying to be funny, but the first thoughts that come to my mind when I saw this were:

        1. This means at some point we'll be able to control electronics with our brain.
        2. This means at some point electronics will be able to control us.

        I/O is a funny thing like that. Who is telling who what to do?

        Don't forget the 3 barriers for spyware neurosoftware:

        - Turn on your neurofirewall
        - Have your anti-neurovirus resident protection on (makes you think three times slower, but you're at least safe)
        - Always keep the cyber-implants up to date with Automatic Updates on to protect from exploits floating in the wi-max connection around you

        - and always#@f...po4j...0sok .... just a moment I have to reboot, something weird going on

        - Oh, yes. Don't forget to vote for Bush Jr. Jr. on the upcoming elections.
        • So now I'll be waiting for a distro called NeuroLinux. Or Neurinux.

          As if Gentoo doesn't sound funny enough.

        • I really really *REALLY* wish you hadn't gone there with this, but there you gone and dunnit, so...

          Presuming any of what you say has any bearing at all (we'd all have to be networked in the head!), then the solution is quite simple:

          Don't operate yourself as root, and for god's sakes man, don't go giving out shell accounts in your noggin!

          Sudo if you must, but always run from userland, and just have kind of a fuzzy bearing of everything that's going on around you, but don't operate in a way that you can actua
          • by suv4x4 ( 956391 )
            Presuming any of what you say has any bearing at all (we'd all have to be networked in the head!)

            Presuming any of what you say has any bearing at all (we'd all have to be networked via tiny boxes we carry in our pockets we'll call "cellphones")
      • At some point, there will be no difference in the silicon based brain and the carbon based brain.
      • "I know you're trying to be funny, but the first thoughts that come to my mind when I saw this were:

        1. This means at some point we'll be able to control electronics with our brain.
        2. This means at some point electronics will be able to control us.

        I/O is a funny thing like that. Who is telling who what to do?"

        And who controls your brain now?

        Why do you smoke? Drink alcohol, do drugs? Become obese? Vote Bush?

        With electronics in our brain, for the first time we might actually be able to take control of our life
      • 01_020501_roborats.html [] this tech has been recently been used on humans. Japanese nerds made a robotic hand that moved with your real hand like traditional movie techniques. However, no glove was needed, the only readings were taken from your brain, with the results decoded. Though the remote control tech hasnt come to humans, our desicion making structure is more complex.
    • In related news, Intel has succeeded in grafting a chalupa onto a dual core Pentium. Which explains their new sales slogan: "Eat THIS, AMD!"
  • I don think this will lead to major changes in the computer technology in near future. But, of course it is a huge progress, especially if it can by uesfull for something. Even, i dont think that on this level it can
  • This is cool. There are computer simulated neurons, hardware implemented simulated neurons, and now we have real neurons on a computer chip! :D Cool.

    How do they keep the cells alive?.. The silicon must be exposed. Here comes AI & math processor brain implant.

    On another note, computer simulated neurons are great at recognising patterns and solving problems. Most character recognition software was based on neuron fuzzy logic
    • by Anonymous Coward
      if you had read the article carefully, you would notice they hadn't achieved bidirectional transmission between cells and transistors. the chip works in the same fashion as ccd does in your camera. the difference is that the first is responsive to charged particles and the latter to photons. so forget about ghost in the shell style ai. however it would be a great mistake to neglect the impact of this work on developement in neurophysiology.
      • > so forget about ghost in the shell style ai

        I wasn't referring to the Ghost in the Shell AIs, but rather to one of the first few pages in the original manga, which described one of the first interfaces between a silicon chip and neurons.
  • coz In 2021, the whole world is connected by the gigantic Internet, and almost a half of the population is suffering from the Nerve Attenuation Syndrome (NAS).Johnny with an inplanted memory chip in his brain was ordered to transport the over loaded information from Beijing to Newark. While Pharmakom Industries supported by yakuza tries to capture him to get the informaiton back, the Low-tech group led by J-Bone tries to break the missing code to download the cure of NAS which Johnny carries.

    Whooooaa ! []

  • To hook up to a quantum computer cluster. That's all I really want before I die... hopefully before we create an artificial intelligence. I don't feel particularly good about combining AI and quantum computing, as it'll likely mean either a sudden massive jump or complete extinction for human civilization, whichever might be more convenient for that manner of entity. Eh. :)
    • I've just come from the future to tell you that you suceed! Unfortunatly your brain will be acting as the image server for goatse.
    • "To hook up to a quantum computer cluster. That's all I really want before I die..."

      IANAP but isn't the Universe one big "qomputer"? Since you are part of the "quantum computer cluster" a euphemisim for group sex? ASL?
  • So if one grafts hippocampus tissue into a solid state memory chip, will it help Alzheimer's patients retain some information? Even if such a thing is possible, I wonder how far to go before practical implementation.

      I'll read TFA in detail tomorrow...
    • I believe there is some research into the possibility of artifical replacements for parts of the hippocampus.
    • The above post is NOT offtopic. Looking at this guy's posting history, you can see this is the first time he's been moded. This guy is now doomed to post in the zero range unless someone decides to mod him back up. If you agree that this mod is unfair, please spend one of your points on the parent post.
  • by SlashSquatch ( 928150 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @06:37AM (#15460912) Homepage

    makes for good eatin too!

  • I always worry when these kinds of press releases come out. They always overdo it and spoil the impact.

    True, it is a significant step in terms of scale and they way they have overcome the interfacing problems *and* maintain the culture medium is pretty snazzy. But...

    Exciting testbed for pharmaceutical research? Nah!

    Setting aside the fact that it's not human tissue; the interactions between neurons is massively complex. The culture medium (which keeps the cells alive) is, by necessity not anything like the infrastructure which keeps the cells alive in a living organism, so it will interfere with many of the more subtle interactions. And those subtle interactions make all the difference when it comes to developing drugs.

    It's still interesting and a good step in the right direction but they overhyped it. Someone is looking for more grant money.

    Disclaimer: Yes, I *am* a biochemist.
    • This post is not in reference to a press release. Its a full length article in the Journal of Neurophysiology.

      The editors would not have published it if it wasn't leading edge, accurate, and reproducable.

      As for who is doing the hyping, the story's submitter had an MIT address. At least on the surface, I don't see any grounds for calling this 'academic astroturf.'
      • Peer review for journal articles does not mean that the methods published can be reproduced. I have read many articles that barely skim what is actually needed to reproduce the experiments. Scientists need money for research and are scared that others will overtake them if they tell them how. This is a really bad excuse, and flawed as most techniques need optimising which journals (with page limits) will not want to publish. Unfotunately also, some (very few) papers have lies about methods and/or result
  • In 1999, I heard of a biomedical engineering group in École Polytechnique de Montréal searching to use implantable chip devices in the visual occipital cortex. The chip is connected wirelessly to a camera system that is transmitting a vision input. That way the blind person can potentially see what is going on.

    That was the most incredible project I heard from about neurotechnology in the past years. Here is the link in french and english to that lab : []

    • If it worked, would the person be able to switch camera inputs? Imagine a person able to see through the outputs of wireless security cameras floating around.. able to see a fuzzy grey image as if through their own eyes.
  • Hello... (Score:5, Funny)

    by proverbialcow ( 177020 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @08:34AM (#15461101) Journal
    Dr. Sam Beckett did this back in 1996. He used these circuits to create a senient computer named Ziggy, who in turn helped him design a time travel machine.


    Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator - and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that are not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on his journey is Al, an observer from his own time who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hopin g each time that his next leap will be the leap home.

    Hopefully, before he gets home, he'll leap into someone around my teenaged self and teach him/me about girls, and then I'll never have been able to type that from memory.
    • The series finale to QL pretty much closed the door on any possibility of him getting home. It was explicitly stated in it that "Dr Sam Beckett never returned home.", the operative word there being never. If they had left that one word out, they at least would have left the door open for a possible movie in which he did get home.
      • So he just keeps the number of leaps approaches infinity, the probablility that he'll do what I want approaches 1. I win!

        (This, of course, assumes he has an infinite lifespan.)

        (And yes, I did remember the final episode, but I'm one of those people to whom Quantum Leap: Prelude [] is dedicated; those who believe he will return home. Oh yes, I am a QL fanboy.)
        • Never is never. Unless you disregard that statement from the finale, Becket literally NEVER gets home.

          I think it sucks too, but by putting that word in there, they've shut the door firm on any possibility.

          • I know. :(

            But, it does seem they have a workaround in place for extending the series - Sam's daughter (sired in the three-parter) tries to find her father.

            Whether or not it actually gets made is another story. Apparently SciFi commissioned a miniseries on the premise after the BG miniseries was a hit, but nothing seems to have come of it.
        • So he just keeps the number of leaps approaches infinity, the probablility that he'll do what I want approaches 1. I win!

          Well... seeing as how his body was physicaly leaping from place to place he must age and will die of old age... lets say he lives a maximum of 80 years after he starts leaping...
          80 years =~29,200 days
          if he leaps every 2 days on average then he'll make ~14,500 leaps spread over the times in which he can leap ( his own life time ) which was what? 35 years?
          so ... given that ther

          • Yes, Sams body leaps with him, the fact he looks like other people makes this statement a bit odd but I remember the time when he leaped in to a man who had lost his legs ... but he could walk on his invisible legs...

            They played fast and loose with this rule, as the mood struck them. I remember the leap in question (Season 5, special guest star: Jennifer Aniston, pre-Friends), but there was a leap in one of the earlier season where he leapt into a pregnant woman and there was concern that Sam would have to
            • and an episode where he leaped into a mentally and physically disabled person and was having problems doing things.
              • Jimmy LaMotta! Excellent point!

                He had those problems the first time, but the second time he leapt in, he was much too concerned with the doings of the Evil Leaper to be affected.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Standards in Artificial Intelligence [] include hybrids of neural biology and computer hardware -- where neuro-chips integrate neuronal tissue with a silicon surface.

    Our Neurofuture [] ranges now from enhancement of the human brain-mind to a Vulcan mind-meld of brain and machine.

    A Theory of Cognitivity [] explains how to build the artificial minds of the future -- whether housed in computers or in these new hybrids of chip and nerve-cell.

    Primitive AI Engines [] already exist and need only rapid prototyping

  • I, for one, welcome our new cyborg overlords....
  • Brain slice experiments (this case is just in conjunction with this new chip that can measure various impulses from cultured hippocampal slice) scare the hell out of me. A brain we know already has capability at least in full to present a rich sensory representation. When we get better at using brain slices in neurocomputation or experiments (cultured, donated, harvested, ...) then a line has been crossed until we know enough to know better. Who'd donate their brain if they knew some aspect of 'themselve
    • I strongly suggest you get over your concerns. This has obvious uses in drug testing and labwork to learn how nerve tissue works, and for learning how to do good nerve electrodes for spinal tap electrodes, prosthetic limb control, or sensory replacemtn techniques such as artificial vision and hearing.

      Creating a mind by chopping up a brain this way is so far away in the future, and so unlikely to even be feasible, that it's not worth wasting your time. The brain works by having both local chemistry and 3-D c
      • This has obvious uses in ...

        Most definitely! Experimentation no holds barred would cause advancement many years faster than our current pace. We need medical advancement in neurological fields badly.

        I'd love to see how it all turns out, but getting there without brave volunteers and an experimental kill switch is just frightening. I guess it comes down to if you would feel brave enough to donate your brain for such scientific experimentation or really feel safe that the 'soul' has already left so t
  • by dashersey ( 751215 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @10:14AM (#15461443)
    Finally, a debugger for the Brain!

    Now I can find out what I was *really* thinking when I bought that El Camino on Ebay!

  • I don't think this product will be viable in the future. Imagine if this became ubiquitous and someone launched an EMP in New York City?
  • "I think, and my thoughts cross the barrier into the synapses of the machine, just as the good doctor intended. But what I cannot shake, and what hints at things to come, is that thoughts cross back. In my dreams, the sensibility of the machine invades the periphery of my consciousness: dark, rigid, cold, alien. Evolution is at work here, but just what is evolving remains to be seen."

    --Commissioner Pravin Lal
    "Man and Machine"
  • are you using a polymer-based neuro-relay to transit the organic nerve impulses to the central processor of my positronic net? If that is the case, how have you solved the problem of increased signal degradation inherent to organo-synthetic transmission across...
  • ves. I have MS and it attacked my optic nerves really bad. I anm totally blind in the left eye and hahe a 30 30% or so field in my right. I am hopefull that since I have seen befor that they can implant a camera and wire it in to my brain so I can see out of that eye again. I have heard they have done this to a man in Canada and he was able to drive.
  • In other news, the institute has created a for-profit spinoff with the strange name SkyNet.
  • This is completely mirroring the prologue in Ghost in the Shell [], to the point that it's creeping me out.

    Well actually, it started when I first started seeing city-wide wireless internet, and then Rhode Island wants state-wide wireless []...

    Anyway, I wholeheartedly recommend every single person that reads this to read GitS (if you haven't already). It not only shows where exactly the world will be in a few years, but also give a good idea as to the risks of humans having pooters implanted into their brains

  • While this subject has long been a staple in science fiction (George Alec Effinger's Moddies & Daddys spring to mind), the most recent time I read of this was also the closest to what this article is about: Interface, written by Neal Stephenson & his uncle, Frederick George, deals with a stroke victim who has circuitry embedded in his brain to help re-route past damaged cells.

    As with any technology, quite fascinating, and scary!

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A giant panda bear is really a member of the racoon family.