Hugh Pickens writes "Dr. Jeffrey H. Toney writes that a team of biomedical engineers at the University of Pittsburgh led by Henry Zeringue have managed to grow an active brain in a dish, complete with memories by culturing brain cells capable of forming networks, complete with biological signals. To produce the models, the Pitt team stamped adhesive proteins onto silicon discs. Once the proteins were cultured and dried, cultured hippocampus cells from embryonic rats were fused to the proteins and then given time to grow and connect to form a natural network. The researchers disabled the cells' inhibitory response and excited the neurons with an electrical pulse which were then able to sustain the resulting burst of network activity for up to what in neuronal time is 12 long seconds compared to the natural duration of .25 seconds. The ability of the brain to hold information 'online' long after an initiating stimulus is a hallmark of brain areas such as the prefrontal cortex. The team will next work to understand the underlying factors that govern network communication and stimulation, such as the various electrical pathways between cells and the genetic makeup of individual cells. 'This is amazing,' writes Toney. 'I wonder what the "memory" could be — could be a good subject for a science fiction story.'"
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