Printer Friendly

Nervy chip may open window into brain.

In a feat that blurs the lines between science fiction and reality, researchers in Germany have combined living brain cells and semiconductor electronics in a single circuit.

The new microdevice, which uses snail neurons because they are conveniently large, represents a step toward more-complex hybrid circuits, says Peter Fromherz, leader of the work. Such circuits would include up to hundreds of neurons and may enable neuroscientists to directly probe the physiological processes of memory and learning, he says.

"We want to make a biological neural network ... and then supervise it, record [from] it, and look at what's going on," says Fromherz.

Finding ways of directly linking semiconductor components and cells also may further medical and technological applications, he notes. Teams in other labs are trying to meld brain tissue with microchips to make implants that can restore sight and computers that exploit nerve cells' information-processing abilities.

But those teams connect cells to circuits by impaling the cells with needle-like electrodes, Fromherz notes. That's how scientists recently commandeered a slice of a lamprey's brain to control a light-sensitive robot (SN: 11/11/00, p. 309).

Fromherz and Gunther Zeck, both of the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich, describe their snail-neuron-based circuit in the Aug. 28 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.

To make their circuit, the duo patterned transistors onto a silicon wafer, placed snail neurons onto the surface, and then immersed the device in a cell-sustaining broth. The team also has begun experimenting with rat neurons. While those cells are smaller and harder to work with, they're more like human neurons than snail neurons are.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:semiconductor electronics combined with living brain cells
Author:P.W.
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Oct 6, 2001
Words:268
Previous Article:Oceans apart, but surgery succeeds.
Next Article:Microjaws chomp cells to change them.
Topics:


Related Articles
Chips on the old block; microelectronic chips serve as newfangled tools for eavesdroppping on brain chatter.
Computing the mind: a scientific approach to the philosophy of mind and brain.
REVOLUTIONARY NEW COMPUTER CHIP TECHNOLOGY.
Hewlett-Packard Co.
Brain may forge some memories in waves. (Science News of the week).
Brains show two sides of language function. (Hemispheric Cross Talk).
NIST helps develop new method to attach long-chain aliphatic molecules to silicon.
One- and two-photon photoelectron spectroscopy used to study molecular electronics systems.
MEMS in medicine: these sense-mimicking chips may herald a new age of bionics.
Your brain at work.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters