Skip to Content
Artificial intelligence

This neural network examines neurons. Like, the kind in your brain.

April 12, 2018

As Ernest Rutherford once said, “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” Well, today’s scientists can feel fortunate that AI is, more and more, being used to keep track of the postage. A new deep-learning system that peers at brain tissue and catalogues individual cells might be the best example yet.

The details: Deep-learning algorithms need a lot of data, and in the realm of neuroscience, there’s plenty: cell cultures abound, offering far more brain tissue than the poor interns and low-level researchers who typically do the work could ever hope to sort and label. Instead, a neuroscientist at UC San Francisco and researchers from Google have teamed up and used the cultures to train a system that could automate some of that tedious work.

So far: According to Wired, the algorithm can tell live cells from dead ones and differentiate parts of a cell without the aid of fluorescent labels that human researchers often use (which can damage cells).

Why it matters: Beyond simply saving time, automating the process of analyzing samples could speed up drug discovery. Google also open-sourced the data set and model, which means small labs with fewer resources can put this tech to use as well.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent

My avatars were cartoonishly pornified, while my male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.

Roomba testers feel misled after intimate images ended up on Facebook

An MIT Technology Review investigation recently revealed how images of a minor and a tester on the toilet ended up on social media. iRobot said it had consent to collect this kind of data from inside homes—but participants say otherwise.

How to spot AI-generated text

The internet is increasingly awash with text written by AI software. We need new tools to detect it.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.