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Now Serving Brains on a Chip!
Infineon Technologies, a tech company in Munich, Germany, recently announced that it has developed a silicon device that is capable of recording electrical signals from brain slices. They call it the “Neuro-Chip” and it contains over 16,000 electrodes, spaced every 8 microns, and records the cells’ activity 2,000 times per second.
The basic design of recording the electrical activity of a neuron sitting on a silicon wafer has certainly been done before, primarily in the world of academia at many institutions [University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Cornell University, University of Michigan, and others]. However, this is one of the first examples of a research company claiming significant progress toward a commercializable project for scientists to purchase and use in their research. This is certainly an exciting development!
There is an important idea to keep in mind with how useful the information pumped out of this little neurodevice will be. Infineon’s chip has tons of electrodes spread out over the silicon surface recording the electrical activity en masse. The recording capability is presumably quite sensitive and capable of pulling out a great deal of information.
Scientists will have to dig in deep, though, to figure out exactly how to relate this sort of collective information to how the neuron network actually functions. It will likely be found that even more specific electrical recordings from each individual neuron is required to gain any insight into how the neurons work together.
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