Colloquium on November 9, 2009


Eshel Ben-Jacob
Tel Aviv University, School of Physics and Astronomy

Chips of Hope: NeuroElectronic Hybrids for Brain Repair and Cognitive Machines

Much effort has been devoted over the years to understanding how information is encoded and stored in living neural networks. After a few minutes of "crash course" in Neuroscience (to present the basic terms and the current paradigm), I will show how we used physics methods (lithography) and concepts (scaling and correlations) to create a prototype of learning Neurochip  memory and information processing chips made of live neurons. The Neurochip is interfaced with a computer for real time recording and stimulations. Using the lithography methods enabled us to study the dynamics of networks with engineered geometry. Taking physics perspective to analyze the dynamics led us to propose that information is encoded in the space of correlations according to temporal ordering. We tested the new idea by analyzing recorded human brain activity of Epilepsy patients. This new conceptual approach to coding and storage of information enabled us to imprint multiple rudimentary memories in a living neural network outside the brain - we used chemical stimulations at specific locations that were selected by analyzing the networks activity in real time according to the new encoding principle. Currently we develop a Nano-Neurochip in which the neurons are grown on specially designed islands of carbon nanotubes. Regarding chips for brain repair I will discuss the notion of "pace makers" like chips to control Epilepsy. I will conclude with some reflections on Turing vision of Intelligent Machines.