Friday, 15 August 2008

Laminated Mouse Brains

Well, close enough. It's a Hybrot controlled by cultured rat braincells.

More over at New Scientist, though regular readers of this blog will already know the basic theory, as I posted about it 2 years ago, and indeed, as far back as 2003.

"Laminated Mouse Brains" are a reference to Cordwainer Smith's Think Blue, Count Two , from Galaxy Magazine, Feb 1963.
...Tiga-belax came in, very cheerful indeed... In his right hand there was a black plastic cube wih shimmering contact-points gleaming on its sides. The two technicians greeted him politely.

"I've got that beautiful child taken care of... I've used a mouse-brain."

"If it's frozen," said the first technician, "we won't be able to put in the computer..."

"This brain isn't frozen," said Tiga-belas indignantly. "It's been laminated. We stiffened it with celluprime and then we veneered it down, about seven thousand layers. Each one has plastic of at least two molecules thickness. This mouse can't spoil. As a matter of fact, this mouse is going to keep on thinking forever. He won't think much, unless we put the voltage on him, but he'll think. And he can't spoil..."
And from the other direction... Using a Supercomputer to Simulate a Mouse Brain. Well, half of one. At one-tenth speed. For ten seconds. But we're getting there.
On other smaller simulations the researchers said they had seen "biologically consistent dynamical properties" emerge as nerve impulses flowed through the virtual cortex.

In these other tests the team saw the groups of neurons form spontaneously into groups. They also saw nerves in the simulated synapses firing in a ways similar to the staggered, co-ordinated patterns seen in nature.

The researchers say that although the simulation shared some similarities with a mouse's mental make-up in terms of nerves and connections it lacked the structures seen in real mice brains.

Imposing such structures and getting the simulation to do useful work might be a much more difficult task than simply setting up the plumbing.
Growing a mind is the hard part. What we've done is to invent canvas, brushes and pigments. We're yet to paint the Mona Lisa.

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