Researchers continue to make progress in fusing living neurons with computer chips:
line between living organisms and machines has just become a whole lot
blurrier. European researchers have developed "neuro-chips" in which
living brain cells and silicon circuits are coupled together.
The achievement could one day enable the creation of
sophisticated neural prostheses to treat neurological disorders or the
development of organic computers that crunch numbers using living
To create the neuro-chip,
researchers squeezed more than 16,000 electronic transistors and
hundreds of capacitors onto a silicon chip just 1 millimeter square in
They used special proteins found in the brain to glue brain cells, called neurons, onto the chip. However, the proteins acted as more than just a simple adhesive.
"They also provided the link between ionic channels
of the neurons and semiconductor material in a way that neural
electrical signals could be passed to the silicon chip," said study
team member Stefano Vassanelli from the University of Padua in Italy.
The proteins allowed the neuro-chip’s electronic components and its living cells
to communicate with each other. Electrical signals from neurons were
recorded using the chip’s transistors, while the chip’s capacitors were
used to stimulate the neurons.