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Hardware Hacking Biotech Science

Data Stored in Live Neurons 100

Light Licker writes "Israeli researchers have created artificial memories for the first time — in a tangle of neurons growing in the lab. Using a specific chemical they could add to the pattern of impulses in a network of the nerve cells. 'Many believe that complex patterns of neuronal firing are templates for memory, which the brain uses when storing information. Imprinting such "memories" on artificial neural networks provides a potential way to develop cyborg chips, says Ben-Jacob. These would be useful for monitoring biological systems like the brain and blood since, being human, they would respond to the same chemicals.' The new pattern lasted two days — good enough for biological RAM?"
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Data Stored in Live Neurons

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  • Obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by Evets ( 629327 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @05:12AM (#19449203) Homepage Journal
    I for one welcome our neuronal impulse driven overlords.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > I for one welcome our neuronal impulse driven overlords.

      That definition seems also include me (average mammal walking on hindlegs without slashdot account)?
      • I think that was the point... Some people read into things too much, others dont read into them enough. I think (Well hope actually, else I could of modded it redundant) that the Parent was specifically making that joke, since we are all neurone impulse driven.
  • I don't smoke weed, I don't know how that got in my car. How many of us have been in such a situation? Now with little biotech magic, you can calmly and confidently (not to mention truthfully) say that the munchkins did it.
  • Minor problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zironic ( 1112127 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @05:19AM (#19449227)
    Then there's just the minor problem of figuring out what pattern means what. Personally I think I prefer the idea of connecting people to external computerized memory then messing with the neural one. Brainwashing anyone?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by andydread ( 758754 )
      Another problem? TFA said the neurons will react like humans. Humans try to forget memories they don't like What if lab brain (the collection of neurons) decide that it doesn't like the memories that have been "washed" on to it.
    • How long til they can read the last thoughts of murder victims?
    • Depends on what you mean by "brainwashing".

      A data storage system based on live neurons doesn't necessarily mean you'll become the automaton of an evil 1984 society. Film-based sci-fi cyborg scenarios are way beyond reach for the time being. Using the term 'cyborg' sensu strictu at the moment implies a hybrid neuroelectronic system for health monitoring purposes.

      Initial practical applications of the breakthrough are noted at the bottom of the article: These would be useful for monitoring biological systems l
    • by h2g2bob ( 948006 )
      Pfft. Everyone loves brainwashing. Or they will do.
  • by kcbrown ( 7426 ) <> on Saturday June 09, 2007 @05:25AM (#19449239)

    The new pattern lasted two days -- good enough for biological RAM?

    Yeah, I'd say so...I can't remember anything for more than a few minutes, let alone two whole days!

    What day did you say it is again?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hi, I'm Tom!
  • Can it run linux?
  • We call them brains and I'm sure Mother Nature took out a patent on them.
  • Pain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ignis Flatus ( 689403 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @06:18AM (#19449413)

    taught new firing patterns to a network of neurons by targeting specific points of the network with a chemical called picrotoxin. The new patterns lasted for up to two days without harming the pre-existing firing patterns
    or maybe they just caused an injury to the network that took 2 days to heal
    • by mangu ( 126918 )
      maybe they just caused an injury to the network that took 2 days to heal

      You used a word with negative connotations, but that's how many electronic memory devices work. They start with a full set of connections and are programmed by deleting all the unwanted connections.

      In old-style PROMs (programmable read-only memories) the connections were metallic fuses that were burned by a pulse of current. Then came EPROMs (eraseable programmable read-only memories) where the connections could be restored by bathing

  • RIAA (Score:5, Funny)

    by revengebomber ( 1080189 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @06:19AM (#19449423)
    Shit, now the MAFIAA can sue me for remembering something, since it can be recovered two days later.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The mold in the refrigerator hasn't shut up since. Stupid mold.
  • Storage? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Does that mean i can use my girlfriend as an external storage?
    • suffer a core dump....

      or worse

      have a seg fault

      and if you overcome those difficulties and it actually works for you, i'd like some advise as i'd might consider thinking of setting up a RAID array, but i have concerns regarding the upkeep requirements with regards to the communication network that was available, your advice? :)
      • Nah man, setting up a RAID GF isn't the best idea, they'd need to be seperated by a pretty large distance, defeating any purpose really.
        Having one GF is bad enough, you're talking 2 GFs in close-proximity?? Are you CRAZY? Thats like blowing up a nuke with another nuke...attached to your head by a strap!
    • You have a girlfriend?
  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @07:18AM (#19449573) Journal
    And quite pertinent, too.

    On a very much related tangent, I hope this sort of research will lead to better interfaces between electronic "input devices" like digital cameras and microphones, and the brain itself. That would greatly improve the condition of blind and deaf people.
    • by wframe9109 ( 899486 ) <> on Saturday June 09, 2007 @08:19AM (#19449837)
      When early man first discovered that a wheel could roll down a hill, how much closer did it bring them to modern day technology used in cars?

      Answer: Not very, if at all.

      I invite you to sit in on a class discussing this topic (memory); we know so little it's almost entertaining.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "When early man first discovered that a wheel could roll down a hill, how much closer did it bring them to modern day technology used in cars?"

        When the early 20th century man first discovered controlled flight, how much closer did it bring them to the Boeing 747's and the Apollo program?
        When early 20th century man first discovered computational models, how much closer did it bring them to .... and so on ...

        Your argument is invalid
      • by eyloni ( 1052788 )
        -- we know so little it's almost entertaining. As is evident by the lack of interesting posts on this topic... including this one.
    • Bit far off, no? They just managed to use chemical compounds to control neuron firing patters on some isolated cells. [typical slashdot skepticism coming] They probably can't even control the patterns they imprinted.

      Also, how the hell can you connect the camera to the "wetware" inside the brain(Zonk's word, never heard the term wetware before)? Wireless power? Ouch.

      On a sidenote:they say they used "picrotoxin". It has the "toxin" in it. Is that a nice thing?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just load programs ala matrix style?

    If thats so, give me black belt knowledge in lots of martials arts, skill in every weapon, and some of that ninja magic shit, cause them pirates have got a thing to answer for!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Ino ( 68074 )
      You can almost see Neo:
          - Wow, I know sendmail now!
      Morpheus: - Show me.

      And then the PFY calling the others:
      Morpheus is spamming Neo...

      QMail - on the other hand....

    • What type of ninja needs that to defeat a pirate? Just wail on your guitar and wait for them to blow up.
  • I could use it as a big jump drive.
  • Why is this under hardware? We may not have a wetware section, but surely this is a science article.

    Now, this story relates a neat hack. They were able to account for the background of spontaneous firing and find their signal amid the noise. Very clever. Can't say as I see it being good for much other than having shown it can be done and supporting the Hebbian neural network theory. But then, science is about finding stuff out. This they did. Even if nothing practical comes of it, it's a win for the science
  • Don't tell me in addition to electricity, my computer is now going to need fool/water supply and I am also going to have to take care of a liquid/solid waste.
    • by WNivek ( 839434 )
      my computer is now going to need fool
      doesn't it already have one?
    • by DanJ_UK ( 980165 ) *
      To be fair you'd save a fair amount of money if you could power your PC on those cheapo nasty protein shakes from your local corner shop. Mac's would obviously require something more expensive and classy though, something organic, maybe? Or perhaps a Beluga Caviare...?

      I see this having severe repercussions; SuperGeeks(TM) across the entire Globe will start showing signs of social anxiety, possibly leading to further psychological trauma, as soon as the day comes when they're forced to say their goodbyes
    • Don't you call those... babies?

      The day I can hook a baby up to my router for extra on the fly storage... well, that will one great day. Babies have a much greater WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) than electronics. It's a win/win!

  • Towards neuro-memory-chip: Imprinting multiple memories in cultured neural networks []; Itay Baruchi and Eshel Ben-Jacob. 2007. What interesting device combinations can we imagine with the awesome 2003 P. P. Irazoqui neurotransceiver []?
  • The article speculates a lot about potential applications in human tissue. But what species' neurons are in the experimental network? And why don't these very superficial science articles reporting on a real journal entry actually link to the article they're discussing?
    • My knee-jerk reaction was an agreement, since we all could be using hyperlinks in journalism (little reason not to); but, the trick on the WWW is to not scream when we come into incompetence-- or lack of imagination re: linking. Not all people have not been introduced to the Way of the internet.
      • Er, that article is content republished on their website from their paper edition:

        From issue 2607 of New Scientist magazine, 08 June 2007, page 29

        Their Web editor certainly has been introduced to "the Way of the Internet". All the ads on the page are linked to their targets.

        Lack of linking isn't lack of imagination, it's lack of competence, like leaving out the job/interest of a named source, or any failure to cite. Especially in a scientific (if pop) journal, there's no excuse.

        And FWIW, I didn't scream. I

        • What did you do? Came up with an excuse to lower our expectations, rather than a way to get more of the minimum performance.
          My apologies, I did not mean to imply that you were screaming. I was being ... poetic. No hard feelings?
          • No hard feelings - it's just a disagreement. But I do think poetry should be accurate, even when imprecise. Poetry is effective, even when misused.
  • I wonder what the artificial memory seemed like to the critter in the jar. Probably something like "whoa, I'm tripping!"

    The Schneidics [] Institute needs one of these labs for nemory [] experiments. Or maybe it needs not to have one, and never know the difference.
    • I wonder what the artificial memory seemed like to the critter in the jar. Probably something like "whoa, I'm tripping!"

      Technically the chemical in question could be one of the many neurotoxins, just as lead (Pb) acts as one of the many human toxins []. Injection of picrotoxin might be stimulating neurons in some fashion that is abnormal or detrimental, not to mention that these results only had imprints lasting days and not years. And maybe it is an equivalent psychadelic? Maybe not.

      ... and injection of mic

      • This experiment is the basis for labs to investigate all these questions. Especially as microfluidics and MEMS get more flexible, complex and easily programmable, and neural/electronic/optic interfaces give us better interfaces for "visualizing" the produced data.

        Oh, and most psychedelics (like LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, phenethylamines, etc) are nontoxic. Their action is theorized to result from signal interference (noise) and consequential effects. This "bench" is an excellent harness in which to researc
        • But there is a show-stopping ethical question of whether these experiments are any more acceptable on this neuron net than they would be on a whole, live, natural organism of the species.

          Why wouldn't they be ethical? Unless it's such a complete functioning brain that it has the capability for self-awareness, I don't see a problem. It's the same as any experiment on a cadaver or amputated body part.
          • These are not dead, they're just dumb.

            Why does it have to be a complete, functioning brain to be self-aware? People with severe brain damage, much less than half a brain, are still self aware, and we don't think it ethical to zap them with false memories. Somewhere between the least functioning human brain we've got, and just one lone neuron without any interconnects, lies some critical mass (or range) that we wouldn't fool with. And now that we're facing it, we have to think it through, or we'll definitely
  • by mozumder ( 178398 ) on Saturday June 09, 2007 @11:34AM (#19450857)
    I've always wanted to go there, but just couldn't afford a real vacation. Now I can finally visit Mars.

    Now, what sort of options are available for the memory implant's "ego trip"?
    • by Eccles ( 932 )
      Can it work to help forgetting? There's, tubgirl, and that weekend in Tijuana...
  • Fun: chmod g=r my.brain Scary: chmod g=rw my.brain
  • No, honestly Mom, I wasn't looking at porn again. The computer sneezed all over my keyboard!
  • "I want room service! I want the club sandwich, I want the cold Mexican beer, I want a $10,000-a-night hooker! I want my shirts laundered like they do at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo."
  • cool- when I am old and my brain goes I can install a new one and flash the firmware-
    or hell I can just flash someone else's brain and be in there... nice

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