Artificial Microbrain Memory Cells

An artificial microbrain made from rat neurons has been created by plucky researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. Take a look at this functioning toroidal microbrain in a dish below.


(Artificial microbrain made of rat neurons)

To produce the models, the Pitt team stamped adhesive proteins onto silicon discs. Once the proteins were cultured and dried, cultured hippocampus cells from embryonic rats were fused to the proteins and then given time to grow and connect to form a natural network. The researchers disabled the cells' inhibitory response and then excited the neurons with an electrical pulse.

Henry Zeringue and his colleagues were able to sustain the resulting burst of network activity for up to what in neuronal time is 12 long seconds. Compared to the natural duration of .25 seconds at most, the model's 12 seconds permitted an extensive observation of how the neurons transmitted and held the electrical charge, Zeringue said.

What would you do with twelve seconds of memory? I'm wondering if it would be possible to have additional brain cells implanted in little rings, kind of like having tiny bunches of hair implanted on a bald scalp. Not that I'm worried about losing my brain cells...

Science fiction readers are thoroughly familiar with this idea; laminated mouse brains are used to pilot interstellar ships in the 1962 story Think Blue, Count Two by Cordwainer Smith.

See also Peter Watts' head cheese from his 1999 novel Starfish:

"It's one of those smart gels," Ray said at last... "Head cheese. Cultured brains on a slab.

From Ring-shaped neuronal networks: a platform to study persistent activity via ScienceBlogs.

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