Weizmann Institute of Science Creates Artificial Nervous System / Genetic Circuit

Jan 28th, 2009 | By | Category: Inspiring


It can go either way: Is it a synthetic nervous system or is it a genetic computer? Either way Prof. Elisha Moses of the Physics of Complex Systems Department, Drs. Ofer Feinerman and Assaf Rotem crossed the first bridge creating circuits and logic gates with live lab grown nerves.

Test-tube neurons don’t automatically form complex networks. So Moses, Feinerman and Rotem decided to scale things way down and grow them in one dimension only on a groove etched in a glass plate. At this level they were delighted to find that the cells could be stimulated, not with electricity as normal lab grown neurons, but with a magnetic field! On top of this they discovered that the width of this strip or etching could have great effect on how well signals could be transmitted, 100 axons ended up being the perfect number. An axon is a long thin extension that connects brains cells in our brains to a whole shwack of other cells. They sit and wait for a certain number of signals before they send back a response

Inspired by computer design the scientists took 2 strips of 100 axons each and created a logic gate, which we connected to a small amount of nerve cells, in essence creating an AND game. For their next feat the scientists tackled more complex shapes. Out of these Neuron Stripes they created triangles and lined them up in a row, point to rib. What this did was to one-directional pathway for the axoms to send signals. All they had to do them was to attach the ends in a loops and Viola! They formed a closed circuit creating a biological clock of sorts.

What interests me is where we will be able to go with this.. Will this form of circuitry prove to be more efficient than traditional silicon based ones? In the end will the cost of manufacturing be less or at the end of the day? Just another amazing example of the times we live in as our advancements in science and technology approach an infinite point..

Dr Moses will set out to discover just what is required to create a structure capable of complex calculations, or a many-neuron ‘thinking’ machine.

Full paper can be found here

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