Borg chips?We are snails. You will be assimilated.
By Maureen Finn
Researchers have discovered a technique for communication
between a microchip and snail brain cells. It is a breakthrough
that may eventually lead to a cure for addiction, a way to
repair brain damage, restoring sight for the visually impaired
and even artificial intelligence.
Naweed Syed, a neurobiologist at the University of Calgary,
is the co-author of the study soon to be published in Physical
He said the study was proof of a principle experiment to scientifically
prove that brain cells could be stimulated through a microchip. “These
chips create a positive charge so that no electric current
passes; this charge then excites the brain cell and fires impulses,” he
The impulses can be connected to a second brain cell and
read by a computer, Syed said, adding the computer then influences
the cells and records their activity without inserting metal
electrodes, which can corrode, or using electric current, which
can damage the brain.
He explained his findings would result in a better understanding
of brain function. By understanding how and where cells communicate,
scientists may be able to repair brain damage, including memory
Furthermore, the breakthrough could lead to a cure for drug
and food addiction. “The area of the brain that causes
addiction cravings can be stimulated to disrupt communication
between it and the brain centre, and then reset the clock so
that the urge disappears,” Syed said.
The next step in his research will be to culture networks
of brain cells to listen and see how they interact, he explained. “One
could then develop machines that have artificial intelligence.”
Kamran Sedig, a media, information and technoculture professor
at Western, said Syed’s study is a step in the right
direction to developing artificially intelligent machines. “This
is wonderful, it could lead to a lot of things.”
He added they are still a long way from having real thinking
machines. “This [technology] may lead to primitive or
sensory based thinking, but I’m not sure if it could
lead to abstract metaphoric thinking.
“I don’t think the human mind is the same as the
human brain — the mind transcends the brain,” Sedig
said, adding it was a deep philosophical issue.
“I want [this technology] to be developed in Canada — this
is home. It has to be international property of Canada — we’re
proud of it,” he said.
“It’s great to learn of any advancements that
could lead to a better understanding of the human brain,” said
fourth-year psychology student Kathryn Robinson. “It
would be wonderful to develop cures for brain damage and addiction — the
lives of so many people could be improved.”