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Biotech Science

Scientists Restore Lost Brain Function In Rat With Synthetic Device 75

V!NCENT writes with news that researchers at Tel Aviv University have replaced a synaptic microcircuit inside a rat's cerebellum with a fully synthetic version, while maintaining proper functioning. The targeted area of the rat's brain involved its ability to blink its eyes in response to particular stimuli. "To test the chip, they anesthetized a rat and disabled its cerebellum before hooking up their synthetic version. They then tried to teach the anesthetized animal a conditioned motor reflex — a blink — by combining an auditory tone with a puff of air on the eye, until the animal blinked on hearing the tone alone. They first tried this without the chip connected, and found the rat was unable to learn the motor reflex. But once the artificial cerebellum was connected, the rat behaved as a normal animal would, learning to connect the sound with the need to blink." Study author Matti Mintz said of the work, "It's proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain."
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Scientists Restore Lost Brain Function In Rat With Synthetic Device

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  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by lymond01 ( 314120 )

    I know kung fu.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, it isn't obligatory. Stop crapping up threads with this BS already.

      • It's actually meant to stir conversation. If you can "record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain" then, conceivably, you could borrow someone's knowledge and transplant it to someone else. What they've done here is sort of a step over a crack compared to jumping the Grand Canyon, but the concept is there.

        Why am I replying to a Coward?

    • by EdZ ( 755139 )
      We don't have the technology yet to handle Simex erasures. I'm sorry.
    • I think kung fu would be a combination of muscle memory and cognitive memory. So I imagine it's not as easy to simulate the firing synapses required for it.

      Is there a neuroscientist here who can elaborate on this?

      • Now Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University in Israel and his colleagues have created a synthetic cerebellum which can receive sensory inputs from the brainstem - a region that acts as a conduit for neuronal information from the rest of the body. Their device can interpret these inputs, and send a signal to a different region of the brainstem that prompts motor neurons to execute the appropriate movement.

        They are actually targeting the region of the brain responsible for motor learning (physical movement as a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have an AVM in my left cerebellum. Could use a workaround.

  • I for one welcome our new cybernetic rat overlords!
  • Why? (Score:5, Funny)

    by catbutt ( 469582 ) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @07:13PM (#37533452)
    I mean, rat's are cheap. If its brain functions are going bad, get a new rat. This is what is wrong with science, they have no clue as to real world problems.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, any chance of restoring the lost brain function of tea partiers?

  • Or did they program him not to be able to tell?
  • by Hazel Bergeron ( 2015538 ) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @07:48PM (#37533820) Journal

    ...and the AI sufficiently advanced to consider us as rats and do the same thing to us.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This article has been posted on Slashdot for a little over two hours now, and only has about thirty comments.

    I can interpret these facts in a few different ways:

    a. There is a technical difficulty preventing users from posting.
    b. It's dinner time in America, and everyone is busy eating.
    c. Slashdot is dead, and no one posts here anymore.
    d. The article is simply not interesting.
    e. Utter shock, because this is it, people.

    I'm going to go with choice "e". Not because it is Euler's Number [], but because all but all

    • I don't think most people realized how close we were to the end of things about which we collectively dreamed. The way of the U.S. world was for generations to be raised on neigh unreachable goals and then left to whither in muted resentment while the next generation was sold their 'bill of goods.'

      Those who understand what is going on are hopefully taking this time to figure out whether they were ever interested in Life, or were just here for the security of being standard bearers in a society trained t
    • by narcc ( 412956 )

      How about

      f. This is about as exciting as a pacemaker.

      There are two dominant kinds of uninformed posts here: those suggesting that we've somehow read a chunk of brain like a hard disk, and those rambling on about the "singularity".

      If anything, the lack of comments suggests that slashdot has not yet been completely overrun by the terminally uninformed.

  • If it works on humans, maybe we can restore the brain function of those of us still dumb enough to waste time on Slashdot.

    • I actually have mod points right now, but I can't find the one to mark you "+1 Recursive".
      • by gmhowell ( 26755 )

        I actually have mod points right now, but I can't find the one to mark you "+1 Recursive".

        Find the choice marked "+1 Recursive" and then start looking from there.

        • I actually have mod points right now, but I can't find the one to mark you "+1 Recursive".

          Find the choice marked "+1 Recursive" and then start looking from there.

          And when you find it, STOP LOOKING!

          We don't want an infinite loop.

  • That I've rebooted my cerebellum
    Gonna get my PhD....
    Recovered from lobotomy!

  • "No, no," said Frankie, "it's the brain we want to buy."


    "Well, who would miss it?" inquired Benjy.

    "I thought you said you could just read his brain electronically," protested Ford.

    "Oh yes," said Frankie, "but we'd have to get it out first. It's got to be prepared."

    "Treated," said Benjy.


    "Thank you," shouted Arthur, tipping up his chair and backing away from the table in horror.

    "It could always be replaced," said Benjy reasonably, "if you think it's important.

    "Yes, an electronic brain," said Fr

  • If bits of the brain can be mapped and replaced at the lowest level (eventually) you'd end up with being able to communicate with a brain at the lowest level by not removing the old bits, but leaving the new bits alongside them, monitoring and sending information with them. A Shirow-style "cyberbrain" from "Ghost in the Shell".

    Since my Dad and his father had Alzheimers or dementia, and my Mom was prone to strokes, I'm hoping to live long to use (and have enough neurons left to appreciate using) something l

    • Define alive after some part of your brain has been replaced by a computer chip... In this particular case it's a small instinctive piece of brain with predictable behavior that got replaced. In the worst cases you'd lose some fear dissorder, because fear lives there.

      But given that this is just a chip; it's not your brain. Essentialy you replace your brain with all it's distinctions and quirks with a processor that just acts like as it is (some part of) a brain, but it's not.

      Way too scary to actualy think a

      • by CptNerd ( 455084 )

        The main question is, are "you" the gooey bits inside your head, or are "you" the patterns that are formed and are constantly forming in those gooey bits? That's the question Shirow asks in "Ghost in the Shell" all the time. His characters believe that the person is the "ghost", that pattern which doesn't arise by accident just because the substrate can handle the pattern.

        Also, in "GitS", the brain cells aren't replaced, they're augmented by processors, one for each cell, that communicate to the cell and

        • If we can replace a cell with something that acts just like a healthy brain cell, then yes, I would still be me.

          However; replacing an entire brain region with a chip that acts the same and is compatible with the brain, but is not your brain, then... no.

          I don't care if my brain works with biological cells or Lego, as long as it still IS my brain.

  • What would happen if such a chip had an access violation? It could be a fatal error. Or would a segmentation fault cause a splitting headache?
  • by kikito ( 971480 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @03:02AM (#37536776) Homepage

    "I never asked for this".

  • I've been ataxic for 5 years because of a damaged cerebellum and every day I wish I wasn't. Things like this present the only possibility that I could ever have unimpaired movement again but this is just a small experiment that's unlikely to be practically realized within my lifetime. So good news for people that end up with damaged cerebellums in the future.

    • Damn skippy. This post isn't about trying to take over the world, it's about providing cybernetic replacements or augmentations that can eventually allow real people with stroke damage etc to recover essential function. It may be a race -- now that Our Government is actually pushing stem cell research big time, it seems not unlikely that in a decade or three they'll be able to actually regrow damaged brain tissue in situ -- there are already some whopping success stories with growing or repairing missing
  • Every day replace some brain cells in a human. Take five or six years, and replace every cell he/she has. At what point does this become artificial intelligence? Would the consciousness of said person survive the transition? If you succeeded, would an exact copy of the result also be conscious? I don't think I'd volunteer, but I'm sure someone would.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Would the person be conscious or would they just faithfully emulate it by claiming that they are? How could we tell the difference? Is there a difference?

      • Is there a difference?

        If someone acts indistinguishably from a human, I don't think there's any difference.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          The problem is, if it doesn't work, the one being that could distinguish it is dead.

          If we do figure it out, it will probably have to be through cases where disease and accident make the decision for us. There will likely be considerable controversy.

      • A 'Chinese Room' built inside a human skull.

        Since that question is impossible to answer and skates around the original intent of the question which was proposing something more akin to the 'Ship of Theseus' I think I'll take a stab at it, although the answer is relatively obvious.

        First, let me ask: are you the same person you were when you were 5? Do you even remember being 5? Can you tell me the reasoning behind decisions you made back then or give me an example of your thoughts and emotions throug
        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          It is all related to the Ship of Theseus. My questions are really the questions Plutarch asks.

          In all of this, I'm reminded of Phineas Gage. At first, doctors were amazed that all that damage made no difference at all. Later accounts were not so sure. Descriptions post injury ranged from "little changed "to "not the same man". All of that confounded by a compensation at the neurological level (and potentially a decompensation later in life) and a social compensation.

          Likewise, the history of the prefrontal lo

  • All your brains are belong to us.
  • ... how much did it cost you?

    Well, the rat only cost $9.95. It's the after-market mod-kit that was a killer at $5,999,999.95.

"The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception a neccessity." - Oscar Wilde