Author: AUTHOR DAVID WOLF

Single molecules can work as reproducible transistors — at room temperature

Researchers are first to reproducibly achieve the current blockade effect using atomically precise molecules at room temperature, a result that could lead to shrinking electrical components + boosting data storage + computing power Date: August 14, 2017Source:Columbia Source: Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science Summary:  Researchers have now reproducibly demonstrated current blockade — the ability to switch a device from the insulating to the conducting state where charge is added and removed one electron at a time — using atomically precise molecular clusters at room temperature. The study shows that single molecules can function as reproducible circuit elements such as transistors or diodes that can easily operate at room temperature. A major goal in the field of molecular electronics, which aims to use single molecules as electronic components, is to make a device where a quantized, controllable flow of charge can be achieved at room temperature. A first step in this field is for researchers to demonstrate that single molecules can function as reproducible circuit elements such as transistors or diodes that can …

The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI

No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem. by Will Knight April 11, 2017 Last year, a strange self-driving car was released onto the quiet roads of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia, didn’t look different from other autonomous cars, but it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn’t follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it. Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it’s also a bit unsettling, since it isn’t completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle’s sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result …

Why our brains may be 100 times more powerful than believed

The dendrites in our brain have been underestimated for 60 years says a new study (Credit:vitstudio/Depositphotos) A new study out of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has found that one part of the neurons in our brains is more active than previously revealed. The finding implies that our brains are both analog and digital computers and could lead to better ways to treat neurological disorders. The focus of the study was the dendrites, long branch-like structures that attach to a roundish body called the soma to form neurons. It was previously believed that dendrites were nothing more than conduits that sent spikes of electrical activity generated in the soma to other neurons. But the study has shown that the dendrites themselves are highly active, sending spikes of their own at a rate 10 times that previously believed. The finding runs counter to the long-held belief that somatic spikes were the main way we learn and form memories and perceptions. “Dendrites make up more than 90 percent of neural tissue,” said UCLA neurophysicist Mayank …

Electronic synapses that can learn: First step towards an artificial brain?

Artist’s impression of the electronic synapse: the particles represent electrons circulating through oxide, by analogy with neurotransmitters in biological synapses. The flow of electrons depends on the oxide’s ferroelectric domain structure, which is controlled by electric voltage pulses. Credit: © Sören Boyn / CNRS/Thales physics joint research unit. Researchers from the CNRS, Thales, and the Universities of Bordeaux, Paris-Sud, and Evry have created an artificial synapse capable of learning autonomously. They were also able to model the device, which is essential for developing more complex circuits. The research was published in Nature Communications on 3 April 2017. One of the goals of biomimetics is to take inspiration from the functioning of the brain in order to design increasingly intelligent machines. This principle is already at work in information technology, in the form of the algorithms used for completing certain tasks, such as image recognition; this, for instance, is what Facebook uses to identify photos. However, the procedure consumes a lot of energy. Vincent Garcia (Unité mixte de physique CNRS/Thales) and his colleagues have just taken a …

The future of AI is neuromorphic. Meet the scientists building digital ‘brains’ for your phone

Neuromorphic chips are being designed to specifically mimic the human brain – and they could soon replace CPUs AI services like Apple’s Siri and others operate by sending your queries to faraway data centers, which send back responses. The reason they rely on cloud-based computing is that today’s electronics don’t come with enough computing power to run the processing-heavy algorithms needed for machine learning. The typical CPUs most smartphones use could never handle a system like Siri on the device. But Dr. Chris Eliasmith, a theoretical neuroscientist and co-CEO of Canadian AI startup Applied Brain Research, is confident that a new type of chip is about to change that. “Many have suggested Moore’s law is ending and that means we won’t get ‘more compute’ cheaper using the same methods,” Eliasmith says. He’s betting on the proliferation of ‘neuromorphics’ — a type of computer chip that is not yet widely known but already being developed by several major chip makers. Traditional CPUs process instructions based on “clocked time” – information is transmitted at regular intervals, as …

Artificial Synapse Developed for Neural Networks

For all the improvements in computer technology over the years, we still struggle to recreate the low-energy, elegant processing of the human brain. Now, researchers at Stanford University and Sandia National Laboratories have made an advance that could help computers mimic one piece of the brain’s efficient design — an artificial version of the space over which neurons communicate, called a synapse. “It works like a real synapse but it’s an organic electronic device that can be engineered,” said Alberto Salleo, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and senior author of the paper. “It’s an entirely new family of devices because this type of architecture has not been shown before. For many key metrics, it also performs better than anything that’s been done before with inorganics.” The new artificial synapse, reported in the Feb. 20 issue of Nature Materials, mimics the way synapses in the brain learn through the signals that cross them. This is a significant energy savings over traditional computing, which involves separately processing information and then storing it into …

Brain Plasticity: How Adult Born Neurons Get Wired

The study opens the door to look at how this redistribution of synapses between the old and new neurons helps the dentate gyrus function. [NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.] Summary: Researchers report adult neurogenesis not only helps increase the number of cells in a neural network, it also promotes plasticity in the existing network. Additionally, they have identified the role the Bax gene plays in synaptic pruning. Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham. One goal in neurobiology is to understand how the flow of electrical signals through brain circuits gives rise to perception, action, thought, learning and memories. Linda Overstreet-Wadiche, Ph.D., and Jacques Wadiche, Ph.D., both associate professors in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Neurobiology, have published their latest contribution in this effort, focused on a part of the brain that helps form memories — the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. The dentate gyrus is one of just two areas in the brain where new neurons are continuously formed in adults. When a new granule cell neuron is made in the …

A Brain-Wide Chemical Signal that Enhances Memory

Summary: Study sheds light on how nicotine affects the brains of those with schizophrenia, and why those with the disease tend to be heavy smokers. Source: University of Bristol. NEUROSCIENCE NEWS JANUARY 24, 2017 How does heightened attention improve our mental capacity? This is the question tackled by new research published today in the journal Cell Reports, which reveals a chemical signal released across the brain in response to attention demanding or arousing situations. Researchers studied how the release of the chemical acetylcholine fluctuates during the day but found that the release is at its highest when the brain is engaged with more challenging mental tasks. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only and is credited to BruceBlaus. The new discoveries indicate how current drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, designed to boost this chemical signal, counter the symptoms of dementia. The results could also lead to new ways of enhancing cognitive function to counteract the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, as well as enhancing memory in healthy people. The team of …

Categorizing Brain Cells

Researchers at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego discuss new efforts to perform single-cell analyses on the brain’s billions of cells. By Jef Akst | November 16, 2016 WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, GERRYSHAW The deeper scientists probe into the complexity of the human brain, the more questions seem to arise. One of the most fundamental questions is how many different types of brain cells there are, and how to categorize individual cell types. That dilemma was discussed during a session yesterday (November 11) at the ongoing Society for Neuroscience (SfN) conference in San Diego, California. As Evan Macosko of the Broad Institute said, the human brain comprises billions of brain cells—about 170 billion, according to one recent estimate—and there is a “tremendous amount of diversity in their function.” Now, new tools are supporting the study of single-cell transcriptomes, and the number of brain cell subtypes is skyrocketing. “We saw even greater degrees of heterogeneity in these cell populations than had been appreciated before,” Macosko said of his own single-cell interrogations of the mouse brain. He …

Researchers uncover algorithm which may solve human intelligence

By Charlie Osborne for Between the Lines | November 29, 2016 If we have the algorithm, we also have the key to true artificial intelligence. The key element which separates today’s artificial intelligence (AI) systems and what we consider to be human thought and learning processes could be boiled down to no more than an algorithm. That’s according to a recent paper published in the journal Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, which suggests that despite the complexity of the human brain, an algorithm may be all it takes for our technological creations to mimic our way of thinking. As reported by Business Insider, the idea that human thought can be whittled down to an algorithm lies in the “Theory of Connectivity,” which proposes that human intelligence is rooted in “a power-of-two-based permutation logic (N = 2i-1)” algorithm, capable of producing perceptions, memories, generalized knowledge and flexible actions, according to the paper. First proposed in 2015, the theory suggests that how we acquire and process knowledge can be explained by how different neurons interact and align in …

Can Quantum Physics Explain Consciousness?

Written by JENNIFER OUELLETTE  NOV 7, 2016  The Atlantic A new approach to a once-farfetched theory is making it plausible that the brain functions like a quantum computer. The mere mention of “quantum consciousness” makes most physicists cringe, as the phrase seems to evoke the vague, insipid musings of a New Age guru. But if a new hypothesis proves to be correct, quantum effects might indeed play some role in human cognition. Matthew Fisher, a physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, raised eyebrows late last year when he published a paper in Annals of Physics proposing that the nuclear spins of phosphorus atoms could serve as rudimentary “qubits” in the brain—which would essentially enable the brain to function like a quantum computer. As recently as 10 years ago, Fisher’s hypothesis would have been dismissed by many as nonsense. Physicists have been burned by this sort of thing before, most notably in 1989, when Roger Penrose proposed that mysterious protein structures called “microtubules” played a role in human consciousness by exploiting quantum effects. Few researchers believe …

Sebastian Seung: Understand your connectome, understand yourself

OCT 17, 2016 An excerpt from Sebastian Seung’s book, Connectome NO ROAD, NO trail can penetrate this forest. The long and delicate branches of its trees lie everywhere, choking space with their exuberant growth. No sunbeam can fly a path tortuous enough to navigate the narrow spaces between these entangled branches. All the trees of this dark forest grew from 100 billion seeds planted together. And, all in one day, every tree is destined to die. This forest is majestic, but also comic and even tragic. It is all of these things. Indeed, sometimes I think it is everything. Every novel and every symphony, every cruel murder and every act of mercy, every love affair and every quarrel, every joke and every sorrow — all these things come from the forest. You may be surprised to hear that it fits in a container less than one foot in diameter. And that there are seven billion on this earth. You happen to be the caretaker of one, the forest that lives inside your skull. The trees …

How the brain makes new memories while preserving the old

Memories are widely believed to be stored in synapses, tiny structures on the surface of neurons. Credit: © vlorzor / Fotolia Date: October 3, 2016Source: Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute Columbia scientists have developed a new mathematical model that helps to explain how the human brain’s biological complexity allows it to lay down new memories without wiping out old ones — illustrating how the brain maintains the fidelity of memories for years, decades or even a lifetime. This model could help neuroscientists design more targeted studies of memory, and also spur advances in neuromorphic hardware — powerful computing systems inspired by the human brain. This work is published online in Nature Neuroscience. “The brain is continually receiving, organizing and storing memories. These processes, which have been studied in countless experiments, are so complex that scientists have been developing mathematical models in order to fully understand them,” said Stefano Fusi, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, associate professor of neuroscience at Columbia University Medical Center and …

Scientists Unveil a New Map of the Brain With Unrivaled Resolution

IN BRIEF The Allen Institute for Brain Science has published and released a comprehensive, high-resolution map of the brain anyone can access online. They mapped 862 brain structures from a single donor brain. MAPPING THE BRAIN Even with our growing knowledge of the cosmos, we are relatively clueless about how our own brains function. That’s why making neurological maps is such an important exercise — it allows us to see the structural basis of how our brains work. The Allen Institute for Brain Science has just created one of the best maps ever. The Seattle-based organization published a comprehensive, high-resolution atlas of the entire human brain. “This is the most structurally complete atlas to date and we hope it will serve as a new reference standard for the human brain across different disciplines,” said Ed Lein, investigator at the Allen Institute, in a press release. The researchers put a donor brain through MRI and diffusion tensor imaging and then sliced it up by specific regions. The end result is a map of 862 annotated structures that comprise …