Feeds

Israeli boffins bring life to human neuron culture

Plan to install bottled brains in 'cyborg machines'

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Israeli boffins may be on the road to building artificial, living human brains which can function without a body to support them. Honest.

According to an article in yesterday's Scientific American, Tel Aviv university researchers led by biophysicist Eshel ben-Jacob have manipulated cultured human brain cells so as to "imprint persisting multiple memories" on them.

The research was revealed in a paper published last month by the American Physical Society, titled "Towards [a] Neuro-memory-chip: Imprinting multiple memories in cultured neural networks" (abstract here).

Ben-Jacob and his fellow boffins apparently mounted their artificially-cultured brain tissue on "a polymer panel studded with electrodes." (Won't be long before they start using full-size brains in jars of bubbling transparent fluid, we reckon.) The scientists then injected the hapless culture with "picrotoxin, a cocktail of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)."

Apparently, "the cells on the electrode array came from the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain known for its role in memory formation," though it wasn't clear whose cortex or how they got the slime out of the donor's head.

Just for information, ben-Jacob's assistant is apparently called Itay Baruchi - not Igor.

The injection of picrotoxic gamma acid enabled the neurons, essentially, to start behaving persistently in an organised way - or to put it another way, BROUGHT A DEAD BRAIN TO LIFE.

Fortunately, the scientists had not installed their vat-grown cortex in a huge, powerful body assembled from corpse parts and thus it was unable to do anything. But there are hints that they plan in future to install artificial brains-in-jars in machinery of various kinds.

Scientific American reckons the synthetic brain tech "could be paired with computer hardware to create cyborglike machines." The science-magazine hacks played down the dangers, suggesting that the results might be useful for "such tasks as detecting dangerous toxins in the air, allowing the blind to see or helping someone who is paralyzed regain some if not all muscle use."

El Reg takes a more pessimistic view. The current killer-robot takeover in the US military is almost bound to draw in the Israeli bottled-brain tech, we submit, especially as US war-boffins are already brewing an unholy marriage of living flesh and machinery - albeit only a tiny one.

It can be only a matter of time until artificial brains in armoured plexiglass tanks - probably, for some obscure reason, harvested from condemned homicidal maniacs - are placed in control of droid gunships, "Reaper" aerial hunter-killers or crawling pint-sized cyber-assassins. There are other heavily-armed death machines entering Israeli service just now, as it happens.

We'll just have to hope that the good citizens of Tel Aviv come to their senses and get down to the university with pitchforks and flaming torches.

More from Scientific American here

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.