Neuroscientists track how brain cells process information

July 13th, 2011 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 13 (IANS) Although machine logic follows human logic, the way a computer processor works cannot be compared with how brains process information.

Doctoral student Mark Shein and supervisors Yael Hanein and Eshel Ben-Jacob, all from Tel Aviv University’s School of Electrical Engineering, developed a new kind of a lab-on-a-chip platform.

It may help neuroscientists fathom one of the deepest mysteries of our brain — how brain cell networks communicate and work together, reports the journal Public Library of Science One.

Shein has applied advanced mathematical and engineering techniques to connect neurons with electronics and understand how neuronal networks communicate, according to a Tel Aviv statement.

Hoping to answer ultimate questions about how our neuronal circuits work, researchers believe their tool can be also used to test new drugs and aid scientists in rewiring artificial limbs to our brain.

“When we look at the neuronal networks operating in the ears or eyes, we have some idea about the coding schemes they utilise,” explains Shein.

“But for more complex processes, like ‘thinking’ or operating different sensory inputs and outputs together, we are basically looking into a black box,” he says.

The brain is composed of a daunting number of circuits interconnected with other countless circuits, so understanding of how they function has been close to impossible.

But using engineered brain tissue in a Petri dish, Shein’s device allows researchers to see what’s happening to well-defined neural circuits under different conditions.

The result is an active circuitry of neurons on a man-made chip. With it they can look for patterns in bigger networks of neurons to see if there are any basic elements for information coding.

–Indo-Asian News service
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