Fabbing components, parallel processing with rats, and synthetic neurons.

Life being what it is these days, I haven't had much time to write any real posts here. If I'm not working I'm at home studying because I'm back on the "get letters after my name" trail, and if I'm not studying or in class I'm helping get family moved out and set up on the west coast. Or I'm at the gym because I'm fighting alongside my essential vanity by trying to lose weight; people tell me that I look good these days but there's a fine line between looking healthy and needing new clothes. So there you have …

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Growing human retinas in vitro, patching damaged brains, and imaging an entire brain's activity.

In the journal Nature earlier this month a paper was published by one Dr. Valeria Canto-Soler who works in the field of regenerative medicine at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns-Hopkins University. Medical science has gotten pretty good at creating induced pluripotent stem cells, or stem cells which started out as other kinds of human body cells that were hacked to devolve back into pluripotent stem cells which can then be caused to differentiate into other, more specialized kinds of cells. Dr. Canto-Soler and her research team have taken this process to the next logical step: Causing those cultured stem …

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Experimental neurochips fabricated in a lab.

Fans of the manga Ghost In the Shell no doubt remember one of the more visually stunning pages at the beginning of the saga, CG art depicting a neurochip, which in the series was the technology underlying artificial intelligence and the prosthetic brains which made full body cyborgs possible. Not a few of us have dreamed of the day in which it would be possible to directly interface doped silicon processors with our wetware and move information out of one and into the other with little more than a thought. However, our science fiction-fueled dreams are just that, dreams, and …

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Memristors now a viable component of electronic circuitry.

In the early 1970's an electrical component was hypothesized by Leon Chua, who was working at the University of California at Berkeley as an electrical engineer. Chua was said to be working on a mathematically rigorous foundation for the science of electronics, and during the course of his work he concluded that a fundamental component was missing. A memristor is essentially a component which remembers how much current has passed through it for a duration of time (technically, there is a relationship between the integrals over time t between current and voltage). While that doesn't seem all that interesting it …

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Synthetic neurons on the horizon?

Implants in the human brain can be called primitive when considered in light of the organ they are meant to interface with. While the state of the art in technology uses minute electrical impulses to communicate with groups of neurons within the brain, the brain itself goes far beyond mere patterns of electrical impulses. Modern science has confirmed the existence of several score of neurotransmitters, and there are probably more that haven’t been identified yet. I’m willing to bet that there are other mechanisms underlying the operation of the brain that I don’t even know about because …

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The map is not the territory, but this one folds up the same way.

Researchers from the University of Nevada and IBM's Almaden Research Lab have used the BlueGene L supercomputer to run a heretofore unprecedented simulation of about one-half of a mouse's brain. It's not easy to keep an organic brain going outside of a living body so they did the next best thing, which was write a program that emulates the organic brain as closely as they could. This isn't as easy as it sounds because neural networks more advanced than those of worms have so many interacting factors that taking them all into account is a gargantuan task. It is also …

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