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nontoxic neuron interface built

for all of you eagerly awaiting the day you can literally "jack in"
to cyberspace..

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Date: Wed, 16 Aug 95 13:44:34 -0400 
Subject: FW: 'Cyberpunk' neural interface?

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From: James McDaniel

X-MsXMTID: red-14-msg950816203742MTP[01.00.00]0000009e-34570

The following item is taken from:



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The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 236: August 7, 1995 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein

has been constructed, opening possibilities for two-way, non-toxic
communication between computer chips and nerve cells. Previous
devices for stimulating nerve cells were metallic devices generating
ordinary electric currents. Not only do such devices have
corrosion-prone electrodes, but their currents create
electrochemical byproducts and heat that could damage the nerve
cells and themselves. The silicon device, constructed by
researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in
Germany, contains a "stimulation spot" that triggers neural
activity simply through the rearrangement of electric charge.
Insulated by silicon oxide, the stimulation spot has a size
(between 10 and 50 microns) matched to that of a leech nerve
cell to which it is connected. A voltage pulse applied to the
spot rearranges electric charge on the silicon oxide film and
the insulating membrane of the nerve cell, creating a buildup
of positive charge in the nerve cell which causes it to fire
above a certain threshold. The silicon device is capable of
triggering a single nerve cell without affecting other nearby
neurons. The device complements the previously designed "neuron
transistor," which receives ionic signals from nerve cells
and transcribes them to electronic signals in silicon. "These
two devices join the two worlds of information processing, the
silicon world of the computer and the water-world of the brain,"
says the Max Planck Institute's Peter Fromherz
([email protected]). Developing this device for
biomedical applications, such as computer-controlled artificial
limbs, is not envisioned at the present moment, as researchers
will first need to build and understand devices that interact
with connective tissue and other non-neuronal cells in the body.
(Peter Fromherz and Alfred Stett, upcoming article in Physical
Review Letters; text and figures are available from AIP Public
Information, 301-209-3091, [email protected])

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