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Fowler Associates Labs



Static Fire Stories Articles & Technical Papers Current News

IC's & Neurons
It's Alive

Januray 15, 2002

The world of ESD may have some new avenues to explore: ESD damage to bio-electronic circuits.
Human Body Model (HBM) , Machine Model (MM), Charged device Model(CDM) - now we may have to develop the Bio Model (BM). Man has long dreamed of directly linking neurons and computers to benefit from the strengths of both.

In August 2001 , two German researchers at the Max Planck Institute reported that they had succeeded in putting a small network of snail neurons on a chip and interfacing them with transistors. Gunther Zeck and Peter Fromherz of the department of membrane and neurophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry (Munich, Germany) demonstrated that they could send signals from a transistor on the chip through a neuron to another neuron and back to a second transistor on the chip (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2001, 98, 10,457). This may be the way for the creation of operating devices that merge biological and electronic data processing.

Nerve cells from live snail ganglia were used because they are larger than human or other mammalian neurons. Researchers tested pairs of neurons by stimulating one of a pair and then seeing it "fire", set off the other neuron, and have that neuron's signal detected by the second transistor. A stimulator beneath each nerve cell created a change in voltage that triggered an electrical impulse to travel through the cell. Electrical pulses applied to the chip passed from one nerve cell to another, and back to the chip to trip a silicon switch. It's Alive!

Peter Fromherz and Gunther Zeck of the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich placed snail nerve cells on a silicon chip, fencing them in place with microscopic plastic pegs. Neighbouring cells grew connections with each other and with the chip.

Fromherz stated:"The aim is to study how associative memory functions in a real neural network and perhaps harness that functioning in an electronic circuit." They intend to create networks of snail neurons on a chip with defined connections and study learning in the neurons. The researchers also plan to use rat neurons, and eventually, they hope to develop massive interfaces with living slices of brain tissue containing tens of thousands or millions of neurons.

Zeck, G. & Fromherz, P.Noninvasive neuroelectronic interfacing with synaptically connected snail neurons on a semiconductor chip. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98, 10457 - 10462, (2001).



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