Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Memories, like the CMOS of my mind

Better living -- and smarter rats -- through chemistry
Some day, humans may plant a chip in their head to help them remember where they put the car keys.
(By Michael Kanellos, CNET

    A group of researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany, have devised a specially designed chip that can stimulate or monitor brain tissue when placed under it. A synapse fires, and a corresponding spike in voltage occurs in the adjacent chip. Alternatively, electricity courses through the chip, and chemical synapses fire in the brain tissue.

    So far, the group has only used the technology to study the reactions of snail neurons, sections of rat brain and a few other types of nerve cells. The group is not close at all to delivering a product -- but the technology creates the possibility that the movements of mind can be mapped (or guided) by computers.

    "The real goal is to make content-addressable memory" in living beings, said Peter Fromherz, speaking at the International Congress of Nanotechnology this week in San Francisco. "You can really look at brain dynamics with a CMOS chip," he said, referring to complementary metal-oxide semiconductors.

    If you want to get a glimpse of the future, a nanotechnology conference is the place to be. Other ideas discussed at the three-day event include a fuel cell that runs on plant matter, including matter scavenged from the ground; a chip that can detect the onset of a disease days before any physically visible symptoms appear; and computers controlled by domino-like chain reactions among zinc-oxide molecules. More here

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