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Computers to help understand neurons

Last updated on: July 14, 2011 12:11 IST

Computers to help understand neurons

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Mark Shein of Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineering and his supervisors, Yael Hanein and Eshel Ben-Jacob, in their quest to understanding logic followed by the brain, have developed a new lab-on-a-chip platform.

This may help neuroscientists understand one of the deepest mysteries of our brain - how neuronal networks communicate and work together.

Shein has applied advanced mathematical and engineering techniques to connect neurons with electronics and understand how neuronal networks communicate.

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Image: Scientists have developed lab-on-a-chip platform.

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Computers to help understand neurons

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The researchers believe their tool can also be used to test new drugs. It might also advance artificial intelligence and aid scientists in rewiring artificial limbs to the brain.

There are relatively simple neural 'firing' patterns that can be measured with sensory organs, but researchers know little about deep thought processes.

Could the brain's electrical signals reveal the basis of thought itself?

"When we look at the neuronal networks operating in the ears or eyes, we have some idea about the coding schemes they utilise," says Shein.

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Image: The tool can also be used to test new drugs.

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Computers to help understand neurons

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A researcher can apply a stimulus such as a bright light and monitor responses in the eye's neurons.

But for more complex processes, like 'thinking' or operating different sensory inputs and outputs together, "we are basically looking into a black box," he says. Investigating the activity of single neurons is not enough to understand how a network functions.

With nanotechnological systems and tools, researchers can now explore the activity patterns of many neurons simultaneously.


Image: Researchers can explore activity patterns of many neurons.

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