RE: You Will Be Replaced!!!!

From: Blasch, Larry (LBlasch@OPW-FC.com)
Date: Tue Aug 28 2001 - 21:48:46 EEST


Elaine,
 
If you stick the snail brain into a nano-robot fabricator, do you get
nano-fabrication at a snails pace?
 
We have that already.
 
Sincerely,
 
Larry
 
Lawrence R. Blasch
Design Engineer
CAE Systems Administrator
     
OPW Fueling Components
P.O. Box 405003
Cincinnati, OH 45240-5003 USA
Voice: (513) 870-3356
Fax: (513) 870-3338

*****************************************
* "Always remember you're unique,*
* just like everyone else." *
*****************************************

-----Original Message-----
From: Elaine Hunt [mailto:ehunt@ces.clemson.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2001 10:01 AM
To: RPML
Subject: You Will Be Replaced!!!!

 If you thought the bull was cute look what will be replacing you!!!

Brain Cells, Silicon Chips Are Linked Electronically
Part-Mechanical, Part-Living Circuit Created

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 28, 2001; Page A03

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

To construct the partially living electronic circuit, scientists at the Max
Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Germany managed to affix multiple snail
neurons onto tiny transistor chips and demonstrated that the cells
communicated with each other and with the chips.

The advance is an important step toward a goal that is still more science
fiction than science: to develop artificial retinas or prosthetic limbs that
are extensions of the human nervous system. The idea is to combine the
mechanical abilities of electronic circuits with the extraordinary
complexity and intelligence of the human brain.

Such combinations of biology and technology may not only one day help the
blind to see and the paralyzed to move objects with their thoughts, but also
help to build computers that are as inventive and adaptable as our own
nervous systems and a generation of robots that might truly deserve to be
called intelligent.

Meshing nerve cells with electronics has become a hot new field in science
-- and has long been a staple of science fiction. But what "Star Trek"
accomplished in a stroke of the pen has proved harder to achieve in real
life.

"The nervous system is quite different than a computer," said Eve Marder, a
professor of neuroscience at Brandeis University who studies how the brain
adapts to change. "Many functions that are physically separate in a computer
are carried out by the same piece of tissue" in the brain and nervous
system.

The greatest challenge has been in building the interface between biology
and technology. Nerve cells in the brain find each other, strengthen
connections and build patterns through complex chemical signaling that is
driven in part by the environment. Slice away some neurons, for example, and
others will leap in to replace their function. No one understands how the
brain learns to adapt to change, but it is a process that is as
sophisticated as it is messy.

Silicon chips, on the other hand, can perform specific functions with great
reliability and speed, but have limited responsiveness to the environment
and almost no ability to alter themselves according to need.

"Things are constantly changing . . . processes are growing, there are
substances called neuromodulators that change the properties of nerve cells
and the strength of connections," said Marder. "That's the challenge of
making a silicon-brain interface -- the rules of computation are not the
same."

The German researchers used micropipettes to lift individual cells from the
snail brain and then puff them out onto silicon chips that were layered with
a kind of glue. The snail neurons, according to biophysicist Peter Fromherz,
are a little larger than human or rat neurons and were therefore easier to
work with.

"They suck them out and then blow them onto the structure," said Astrid
Prinz, a post-doctoral researcher at Brandeis University, who used to work
with the German group. "It's a matter of practice to learn to handle
individual cells. You have them in a little pipette with fluid. You blow
them out and you can maneuver them. One guy in the lab made a little movie
on how to blow cells."

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.

The process was repeated with some 20 cells over multiple transistors and
stimulators. By using polymers, the German scientists built tiny picket
fences around the neurons to keep them in place over the transistors -- one
of the great difficulties in building such circuits is that nerve cells tend
to wander around, as they do in the brain.

Neurons on this silicon base developed a connection between each other known
as a synapse. When researchers stimulated one neuron, it released an
electrical signal. That signal was detected by the transistor that the
neuron sat on as well as the transistor beneath a second neuron -- showing
that the electrical signal had passed from the chip to the first neuron,
through a synapse to the second neuron and then converted back into
electricity and the second transistor.

"It's very primitive, but it's the first time that a neural network was
directly interfaced with a silicon chip," said Fromherz, who published the
results in today's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Science. "It's a proof of principle experiment."

The group, he said, was already working on linking greater numbers of
neurons with more transistors. The real challenge, he said, lay in figuring
out where exactly the neuron's synapse was relative to the transistor, and
in developing techniques that could reliably construct larger circuits.
Fromherz said plans were underway to build a system with 15,000
neuron-transistor sites.

When the number gets large enough, researchers hope they will begin to see
the early glimmers of what actually happens in the brain: neurons forming
complex connections that transmute electrical activity into computation,
thoughts and maybe consciousness itself.

2001 The Washington Post Company

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 Some are the best in their fields. Some are second-rate achievers.
 But when the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten.
 Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
******************************************************************

Elaine T. Hunt, Director elaine.hunt@ces.clemson.edu
Laboratory to Advance Industrial Prototyping
Clemson University 206 Fluor Daniel Bldg.
Clemson, SC 29634-0925
864-656-0321 (voice) 864-656-4435 (fax)
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