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Scientists create Artificial Nervous System

unc0nn3ct3d (952682) writes | more than 5 years ago

Biotech 3

unc0nn3ct3d writes "Published in Nature Scientists at The Weizmann Institute of Science successfully cultured single dimensional neurons 100 axoms long to form Closed circuits and Logic Gates. Finding the right thickness to be able to begin manufacturing the foundation of a synthetic nervous system, or in other terms an organic / genetic computer.

The question is what will arise from this? Will this form the basis for a more efficient computing system, or a synthetic brain? Either way it a loooooonnnggg way off of either of those possibilities but it represents the first step."

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Imbedded intelligence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26647471)

Crazy talk.. Soon to have intelligent thinking windows

Logic gates? lol? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26647549)

They think an animal nervous system is based on logic gates? This is nothing more than implementing computational logic in a living system, it is definitely not anything like a nervous system. If Slashdot submitters can't get it right how can we expect the general public to do any better.

Re:Logic gates? lol? (1)

chrisG23 (812077) | more than 5 years ago | (#26648263)

IANANP (I am not a neurophysiologist.) The nervous system, and that includes the brain and everything it connects to in the body (which is most everything), can be viewed as a system of logic gates. However, these are not like the logic gates that most people on here have in mind. The basic unit, the analogue to the transistor, is the neuron. The neuron, like the transistor, receives input to its various dendrites (the input side) (there could be thousands of these on a cell receiving input from different sources). This input comes in the form of electrical potential or charge, through chemical ions going to the dendrites. If a critical mass of electrical potential is reached in the neuron, then it releases this charge out the other end of the cell, to its axons (its output side). These axons go the dendrites of other neurons in the brain, or travel via the spinal column to various parts of the body. The axon of one neuron does not directly touch the dendrite of another, there is a tiny gap there, called the synapse. The electrical potential travels from the axon side (called the pre-synaptic side) to the dendrite (the post-synaptic) via chemicals, called neurotransmitters (this includes serotonin, dopamine, and others).

A key difference between a computer and a brain/mind is that the brain/mind does not have discrete states controlled by a timing mechanism or clock. A neuron sits idly by and gets its "input" from other neurons (and sensory input for some neurons) until this critical mass is reached, it fires, and sends the critical mass to be sent to split up amongst its 10/100/1000 or more axons to other neurons/muscles/whatever. This can happen rapidly for a single neurons, which is said to be firing rapidly, or it can happen slowly. In a computer it is known exactly how fast this is happening, because it is controlled by a clocking mechanism. The change of the input and output of a transistor only happens when the quartz crystal (or whatever they use nowadays) says its ok. If a change of transistor state happens out of phase with a clock cycle then your processor is malfunctioning.

The brain is not that quite simple (the parts of it scientists think they know something about). Some neurons will fire more often if they receive alot of "input", these are called excitatory neurons. Some neurons will do the opposite, and fire less often (inhibitory neurons). Some neurons can have their rate of fire change through chemical interactions that do not involve the the axon-dendrite-synapse jump. The neurotransmitters (your dopamine, serotonin, et all) surrounding an axon/dendrite synapse can go up in levels, or go down, further affecting the way a neuron will fire. It is a huge complicated dance of cells that allows us to do and think everything we do and think.

The scientists in the article have managed to get a few hundred together, and to arrange them to form a computer logic gate. The mind this is not. An accurate simulation of the functions of a neuron? Not quite. The first step towards something more, with the possibility some day of being something more? Of course. Hell, lets apply moore's law to this, and say in a year and a half they will have 1000 neurons strung together, and 3 gates. And then double that for a while, assume scientists can make a breakthrough and have some control over the other processes, and it may not be long before they have something similar to the brain of a lower animal, or something higher. Who knows.

I apologize for any mistakes or inaccuracies, I like to read layperson's books for understanding the brain which of course are a simplified abstraction of what modern science currently thinks it knows about the brain/mind/nervous system.
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