Real 'Smart Chip' Developed,
Scientists Say
The Globe and Mail
CALGARY (Canadian Press) -- Researchers at the University of Calgary have found that nerve cells grown on a microchip can learn and memorize information which can be communicated to the brain.
"We discovered that when we used the chip to stimulate the neurons, their synaptic strength was enhanced," said Naweed Syed, a neurobiologist at the University of Calgary's faculty of medicine.
The nerve cells also exhibited memory traces that were successfully read by the chip, said Syed, co-author of the landmark study published in February's edition of Physical Review Letters, an international journal.
The research was done in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich.
The team cultured nerve cells from a snail and placed them on a specially designed silicon chip. Using a microcapacitor on the chip, scientists stimulated one nerve cell to communicate with a second cell, which transmitted that signal to multiple cells within the network.
A transistor located on the chip then recorded that conversation between cells.
Mr. Syed said the discovery is groundbreaking.
"We've made a giant leap in answering several fundamental questions of biology and neuro-electronics that will pave the way for us to harness the power of nanotechnology," he said.
The findings could help in the design of devices that combine electronic components and brain cells. That includes controlling artificial limbs or restoring sight for the visually impaired.
Future research will focus on interfacing silicon chips with the human brain to control artificial limbs and develop "thinking" computers.
© 2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.


This Site Served by TheHostPros