Month: April 2003

The Little Mouse told me, “I, Robot”

NOTE: This is an update on a previous Neuron News article.

The Potter research group in the Laboratory for Neuroengineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology is making grand strides with their work in building a “simple” moving robot that is controlled by living brain cells.

The group has successfully demonstrated the direct connection of rat neurons to a robotic device, which is then controlled by the electrical activity of the neurons. The robot used in this important study was built by K-Team S.A., a Swiss company that manufactures mobile minirobots for use in advanced education and research.

Brain cells extracted from a rat brain are dropped into a glass dish that is covered with metal electrodes. The cells settle in an uncontrolled way onto the contacts, and are kept alive (not a simple task!) so that the resulting electrical activity from the living cells may be detected and transmitted to the wiring of the robot.

A primary goal of this work is to figure out how these networks result in some physical activity, which then might lead to more clear understandings about how our brain works when we think, remember, and move our bodies.

The result? “It’s alive! Alive!” Although, you’ll have to believe the still picture on the linked website article, as no movies seem to be available at the time of this posting. This development seems quite exciting. On the other hand, the wife of this editor certainly doesnot like mice, and she might not appreciate minirobots controlled by mice brains. Well, with some advancements in science there inevitably come some downsides.

Read the article from EurekAlert! ]

05.14.2003 UPDATE:
Read the article from The New York Times ]

06.11.2003 UPDATE:
Read an article from e4Engineering.com ]

Learn more about Prof. Potter’s work ]

Neurons Movies at a Billion Billion Frames Per Second

One way to figure out how your brain works … still an enormous realm of this universe that remains to be understood … is quite simple in principle: watch brain cells grow and connect and just do their thing, and try to learn something from it.

Of course, mounting a video camera into your skull isn’t a pleasant idea. So, there are techniques that allow brain cells, called neurons, to be grown in other environments like glass dishes or silicon wafers. Coaxing the cells to actually survive in this foreign way is something of a black art, but when done successfully scientists have a great way to directly watch neurons do their thing.

An astounding recent advancement in imaging technology has pushed these movie makers to the next level with incredibly high effective frame rates. Just like a strobe light at a party make the dance floor look like a slow flashing of images before your hazy eyes, advanced, high-speed lasers can be pulsed very quickly to illuminate a field of view.

Jeff Lichtman, at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, has taken advantage of this new technology to watch neuron development with such a high resolution. Scientists in other fields, such as chemistry, biology, and physics are also exploring important applications.

Read more about this exciting technology…

Read the article from Small Times ]

Last updated April 5, 2020