Synthetic brain! sequel to Memento in jeopardy.

World's first brain prosthesis revealed

The world's first brain prosthesis - an artificial hippocampus - is about to be tested in California. Unlike devices like cochlear implants, which merely stimulate brain activity, this silicon chip implant will perform the same processes as the damaged part of the brain it is replacing. [...]

The job of the hippocampus appears to be to "encode" experiences so they can be stored as long-term memories elsewhere in the brain. "If you lose your hippocampus you only lose the ability to store new memories," says Berger. [...] No one understands how the hippocampus encodes information. So the team simply copied its behaviour. Slices of rat hippocampus were stimulated with electrical signals, millions of times over, until they could be sure which electrical input produces a corresponding output. Putting the information from various slices together gave the team a mathematical model of the entire hippocampus.

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23 Responses:

  1. ivorjawa says:

    It's articles like this that remind me that I need to get the hell out of the computer industry and finish my biomedical engineering degree.

    I wanna sign up for one of these now.

  2. injector says:

    I wonder if it would it be possible to store the data to be encoded. That way the data could be played back into someone else's chip. I could see a real market for "good" memories, vacations and such, for people who don't have time to get away. Of course there is the porn industry, if anyone can make a viable industry from this...

    I'd also like to see what I could do with a hex editor. Intercept the storing of a memory, edit it up a little bit, then insert it. Of course this has still has me stumped, so maybe it wouldn't be the best idea to try hacking memories.

  3. baconmonkey says:

    yeah, so now the cyborg rats are going to have a brain full of "Ow, stop shocking me, asshole" memories.

  4. alexp says:

    This shit scares me more than human cloning.

    • injector says:

      Ooo, one more use. Record all your memories in your life so you can put them into your clone just before you die.

    • bdu says:

      No kidding. All the neuroscience "we don't understand it but we can replicate it's behavior" stuff scares the shit out of me.

      • ivorjawa says:

        Being able to replicate a behavior we don't understand is half the way to understanding it.

        This is reverse-engineering of the brain. It's not like it's going to be easy.

        • ronbar says:

          My personal uneducated opinion on this kind of thing is that poking electrodes into rat brains, zapping them, and recording what happens isn't very good reverse engineering, even if you poke, zap, and record really precisely. Brains (even the older, "simpler" parts of them) just aren't that simple.

          My bet is the first person with any kind of active brain implant will be okay for a while, then they'll gradually degrade and finally snow crash.

    • osmosys says:

      amen to that...

      Are they stopping to think that they "should".

      • jwz says:

        What the hell is wrong with you people? This is great! Oh, but science is scary, we'd be better off foraging on the plains and dying at the ripe old age of 20.

        • osmosys says:

          You've read Jurassic Park.

            • osmosys says:

              Well in Jurassic Park the exhibits eat the tourists.

              • jwz says:

                Your point still eludes me.

                • osmosys says:

                  My point is that technology always has unforeseen consequences.

                  I never see enough objective information about what *could* go wrong in these articles. It's almost like they never think about it at all.

                  • jwz says:

                    Another word for "unforseen consequences" is "discovery."

                    So again I ask, what's your point? "Brains are scary and so are dinosaurs, so let's not do any research into how to cure brain damage?"

                  • osmosys says:

                    The point I am making is that with more technolgy comes more responsability, and I don't trust human beings to be responsible with having chips that can interface with the human brain.

                    For a long time science has seemed to rocket higher and higher. The left brain is valued while the right brain is ignored. We seem to put so much emphasis on IQ and ignore EQ.

                    I'm not sure if "discovery" and "Unforseen consequences" can be made into synonyms of each other. Discovery is just that - a new fact for the books. Unforseen consequences is what happens when that discovery bites the owner back.

                    Understand that I am not Omish, and I don't think technology is evil. I just feel that the notion of "science saving us" can leave us with a double edged sword.

                    I re-iterate what I said earlier: "I never see enough objective information about what *could* go wrong in these articles. It's almost like they never think about it at all."

                  • dasvolk says:

                    I think it's human instinct to accomplish such technologies. If it kills us all, well, we died doing what we were programmed to do.

                  • dasvolk says:

                    I think it's part of our societal instinct. If we can do it, we'll do it, because the overriding instinct in our brains is curiosity, like monkeys however we have far more complex toys. We'll achieve technology pretty much until we hit the limit of tricks we can play with it.. and that might include replicating God or something fun like that. Imagine cloning Jesus, whether he's actually the son of God or not wouldn't really matter.. or making bionic brains for people like Ghost in the Shell. We could learn to "copy" our Ghosts, or souls, and we could even have a sense of humor about it and contract Symantec to make the software necessary.