back to article Israeli boffins bring life to human neuron culture

Israeli boffins may be on the road to building artificial, living human brains which can function without a body to support them. Honest. According to an article in yesterday's Scientific American, Tel Aviv university researchers led by biophysicist Eshel ben-Jacob have manipulated cultured human brain cells so as to "imprint …


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  1. Arnold Lieberman

    Where's Captain Cyborg gone?

    This is one experiment I'd dearly love him to take part in :-D

  2. Marc Lawrence


    So it was not a dream... Coupled with cloning we can have heads in a jar... yeah yeah yeah

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There will have to be a "side door" cheat code somewhere!

  4. Adam K Dean

    Religious Idiots

    Either a lot of you people are religious zealots who hate to see scientific advances, or you're jealous it's not our country (UK) leading the way.

    Personally, whilst our country is ran by idiots who ban these things and inhabited by people who are upset by anything other than grass and caves, we'll never advance enough to call ourselves part of the new gen world.

    So you don't like the idea of living computers, space travel or biological research? Well if that's the case (of course it is!), you should go back to the theatre, attend garden shows and stop using your car!

    Wake up or shut up, thats what I say! ;)

  5. Jack

    Ia! Yog Sothoth!

    When I think of Sci-Fi come to life, I prefer it not to be from the stories of HP Lovecraft.

    What is that buzzing I hear...?

  6. Robert Long

    There's a movie about that

    Der Golem

  7. David Trew

    Daleks on the horizon?

    Moving brains to inside cyborg machines? Young Mr Davros would be so proud!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bullshit alert!

    "picrotoxin, a cocktail of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)."

    Nobody who actually understands chemistry or biology could have written this gibberish. Even just in terms of plain English, the idea of having a "cocktail" of one thing is meaningless nonsense, but whatever the language barrier that might be involved not even a first-level undergrad would confuse a biologically active chemical with its antagonist.

    Picrotoxin is not GABA nor is it made out of GABA; it is just an unrelated chemical that happens to be similarly-enough shaped to GABA that it can act on the same receptors, where it interferes with the normal action of GABA on those receptors.

    More ignorance of fundamental biology from the SciAm article itself:

    " According to Ben-Jacob, previous attempts to trigger the cells to create a repeating pattern of signals sent from neuron to neuron in a population—which neuroscientists believe constitutes the formation of a memory in the context of performing a task "

    No they don't. Neuroscientists believe that long-lasting alterations in the strength of synaptic connections constitute the formation of a memory. That's why when you go under anaesthetic and the electrical activity in most of your brain is suppressed, when you wake up afterwards you haven't forgotten how to walk or anything. The temporary patterns of activity were all lost, but the permanent changes in connections and connection strengths remain.

    "these findings hint chemical signaling mechanisms might play a crucial role in memory and learning in task-performing in vivo networks."

    No! Never! Sorry, but this is not news, this has been known for many many years. Chemical signalling is pretty much the only way nerve cells in the brain communicate. (Yes, there are probably some cells with gap junctions in there, but there is no significant electrical field across the synaptic cleft, which is where most nerve-to-nerve communication takes place).

    Hmmm. Having finished the SciAm article, I now see it doesn't use the word "cocktail" at all. But you have put it in quote marks in your article, so it really ought to be a direct quote from somewhere, it would be seriously misleading for you to make up your own wording and present it as reported speech. Where /did/ the phrase originate?

    Anyway, the point remains: this guy is a physicist, and he is getting very overexcited about having discovered a bunch of stuff that *biologists* have known for a long time.

  9. DoubleD

    Correct Pronunciation

    The name is Froederick Franken-SCHTEEN!

  10. Daniel Ballado-Torres


    Hm... so all I need to stop the cyborg invasion is to type that cheat code on my Pyro-GX? ;)

    It looks like A.I. is not going to be so Artificial if they manage to do an *actual* neural network. Though I wonder what are the implications of "re-animating" dead brain cells ....


  11. Lewis Page (Written by Reg staff)


    The SciAm article no longer uses the word "cocktail," true. But it did when first written.

    Check out the Google cache version, which embarrassed science hacks can't so easily change:

  12. Peter

    or to put it another way, BROUGHT A DEAD BRAIN TO LIFE.

    Could do with some of that where I work

  13. Andy Bright

    re: Bullshit alert!

    You sir, I feel, are on the side of the crazed Boffins intent on destroying our society with your fiendish brains-in-a-jar tanks.

    Your propaganda trying to allay our fears with scientific mumbo-jumbo may include large amounts of accuracy, but won't distract us from the vision of cyborg operated death machines rolling over our front lawns.

    No, you say it's bullshit, but THEY always say that - and clearly you are one of THEM - you know way too much not to be.

    Mr Page I salute you and your timely warning, set phasers to murder death kill, we'll see you in the trenches..

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Sun

    I look forward to seeing the a banner headline in The Sun claiming that a cocktail of chemicals is good for the brain.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do comments get deleted?

    I can't work out what / who Adam K Dean is talking to.

  16. Chris Goodchild Silver badge


    I think the most worrying conclusion to this technology is the potential for imprinting selected memories. Can you imagine creating cyborg warriors that have had carefully contructed memories designed to produce total fanatics?

    Some thing any extreme organisation would give their collective right arms for. Imagine hordes of fanatical constructs with religio/political axes to grind! Bring back Skynet!

  17. john Durrant

    new avengers plot?

    I saw this on the new avengers last night. theres no need to worry 'cos Steed always saves the day.

  18. Simon Dragon

    Where is Mr Butler?

    Anybody else reminded of "Dune" and the Butlerian Jihad at this point?

    "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind."...

  19. MikeV

    Cyberdine Systems Teddybear?

    Hmmmm....perhaps the good Mad Scientists(tm) of Tel Aviv should also take a look at "BEAR" as reported on Slashdot, the Beeb and in this weeks New Scientist as a likely candidate for implanting Brains-In-A-Can. Now there's a machine that appears to know the meaning of rising up (and runing away really fast I would hope).

  20. frank denton

    Faded Glory

    I started reading Scientific American in 1975. In those days it was a 'proper' science publication on a par with New Scientist and contained articles that were informative, intellectualy challenging and very well written.

    Now, sadly, it's turned into a coffee table magazine that glosses over difficult concepts and delivers easily skimmed summaries.

    The Reg's treatment of this story is all that SciAm deserves.

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