Tiny changes in the way electrical signals move through neurons are the basis of learning and memory–and of many brain pathologies. But it has been difficult for neuroscientists to observe these changes in much detail. Now, researchers at Harvard University have created a tool with unmatched sensitivity: silicon nanowires that amplify very small electrical signals from as many as 50 places on a single neuron. Existing methods can pick up signals from only one or two places.
Chemist Charles Lieber and coworkers assemble nanowires on a silicon chip, deposit electrical leads that connect to them, and add protein molecules that promote and control neuron growth. Finally, they seed the chip with rat neurons and wait four to ten days for them to grow. The proteins provide a path for the neuron’s growth along the chip, ensuring that it makes contact with the nanowires. The technology could eventually help brain scientists understand the underpinnings of learning, memory, and disease.
How AI is reinventing what computers are
Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.
These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems
They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.
A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click
Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.
Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient
The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.
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