Friday, July 09, 2010

Brain Power

I know these stories aren't exactly new, but since they follow in the vein of what my story is about I thought I'd post them actually for me to reference..

Via the The Wall Street Journal of all papers...:
For the last four years, Henry Markram has been building a biologically accurate artificial brain. Powered by a supercomputer, his software model closely mimics the activity of a vital section of a rat's gray matter.

Dubbed Blue Brain, the simulation shows some strange behavior. The artificial "cells" respond to stimuli and suddenly pulse and flash in spooky unison, a pattern that isn't programmed but emerges spontaneously.


At the Lausanne lab one recent afternoon, a pink sliver of rat brain sat in a beaker containing a colorless liquid. The neurons in the brain slice were still alive and actively communicating with each other. Nearby, a modified microscope recorded some of this inner activity in another brain slice. "We're intercepting the electro-chemical messages" in the cells, then testing the software against it for accuracy, said Dr. Markram.

The rat's NCC has 10,000 neurons, and it takes the power of one desktop computer to mimic the behavior of a single neuron. To model the entire NCC, Dr. Markram relies on an IBM computer that can perform 22.8 trillion operations a second. This enables the simulation to be rendered as a three-dimensional object. Thus, when Blue Brain is running, its deepest inner workings are seen in astonishing detail, in the form of a 3-D simulation that unfolds on a computer screen.

In a darkened room, Blue Brain displays a virtual NCC as a column-like structure, its blue color signifying a state of rest. When zapped by a simulated electrical current, the neurons start to signal to each other and their wiring progressively sparks to life different colors. Tests indicate the same areas light up in the model as do in a real rat's brain, suggesting that Blue Brain is accurate, says Dr. Markram.

And this one also caught my eye...

Via the good folks at Popular Science:
Srinivasan explains that the chip is sending electric pulses through the needle into the brain slice, which is passing them on to the screen we´re watching. â€The difference in the waves´ modulation reflects the signals sent out by the brain slice,†he says. â€And they´re almost identical in frequency and pattern to the pulses sent by the chip.†Put more simply, this iron-gray wafer about a millimeter square is talking to living brain cells as though it were an actual body part.
Ted Berger, Srinivasan´s boss and the mastermind behind the tangle of coils and electrodes, has arranged this demonstration to provide a small but profound glimpse into the future of brain science. The chip´s ability to converse with live cells is a dramatic first step, he believes, toward an implantable machine that fluently speaks the language of the brain-a machine that could restore memories in people with brain damage or help them make new ones.

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