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Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Friday, 28 February 2020

Biological and artificial neurons communicated with each other over the Internet

For several decades, scientists have been trying to artificially recreate the functioning of the human brain through AI and artificial neural networks. In addition to this research, they are also trying to link brain functions to machines via brain-computer interfaces. But recently, an international team of researchers has taken a new step: communicating biological and artificial neurons over the Internet. This scientific achievement should allow the development of new interconnected neuroprosthetic and neuroelectronic technologies.

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Research on novel nanoelectronics devices led by the University of Southampton has enabled brain neurons and artificial neurons to communicate with each other. This study has for the first time shown how three key emerging technologies can work together: brain-computer interfaces, artificial neural networks and advanced memory technologies (also known as memristors). The discovery opens the door to further significant developments in neural and artificial intelligence research.

Brain functions are made possible by circuits of spiking neurons, connected together by microscopic, but highly complex links called ‘synapses’. In this new study, published in the scientific journal Nature Scientific Reports, the scientists created a hybrid neural network where biological and artificial neurons in different parts of the world were able to communicate with each other over the internet through a hub of artificial synapses made using cutting-edge nanotechnology.

Bi-directional communication in real time between biological and artificial neurons

This is the first time the three components have come together in a unified network. During the study, researchers based at the University of Padova in Italy cultivated rat neurons in their laboratory, whilst partners from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich created artificial neurons on Silicon microchips. The virtual laboratory was brought together via an elaborate setup controlling nanoelectronic synapses developed at the University of Southampton. These synaptic devices are known as memristors.

Biological neurons and artificial neurons were able to communicate with each other through the Internet via memristors. Credits: University of Southampton

The Southampton based researchers captured spiking events being sent over the internet from the biological neurons in Italy and then distributed them to the memristive synapses. Responses were then sent onward to the artificial neurons in Zurich also in the form of spiking activity. The process simultaneously works in reverse too; from Zurich to Padova. Thus, artificial and biological neurons were able to communicate bidirectionally and in real time.

(a) Diagram of the various components of the communication circuit. ANpre and ANpost are the artificial neurons on silicon; MR1 and ME2 the memristors; the neurons of rats are cultured on the surface in TiO2. (b) Operational diagram of the communication circuit. Credits: Alexantrou Serb et al. 2020

Themis Prodromakis, Professor of Nanotechnology and Director of the Centre for Electronics Frontiers at the University of Southampton said “One of the biggest challenges in conducting research of this kind and at this level has been integrating such distinct cutting edge technologies and specialist expertise that are not typically found under one roof. By creating a virtual lab we have been able to achieve this.”

Towards new connected neuroprosthetic and neuroelectronic technologies

The researchers now anticipate that their approach will ignite interest from a range of scientific disciplines and accelerate the pace of innovation and scientific advancement in the field of neural interfaces research. In particular, the ability to seamlessly connect disparate technologies across the globe is a step towards the democratisation of these technologies, removing a significant barrier to collaboration.

Professor Prodromakis added “We are very excited with this new development. On one side it sets the basis for a novel scenario that was never encountered during natural evolution, where biological and artificial neurons are linked together and communicate across global networks; laying the foundations for the Internet of Neuro-electronics. On the other hand, it brings new prospects to neuroprosthetic technologies, paving the way towards research into replacing dysfunctional parts of the brain with AI chips.”


Memristive synapses connect brain and silicon spiking neurons

Alexantrou Serb, Andrea Corna, Richard George, Ali Khiat, Federico Rocchi, Marco Reato, Marta Maschietto, Christian Mayr, Giacomo Indiveri, Stefano Vassanelli, Themistoklis Prodromakis.

Scientific Reports, 2020;

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-58831-9

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Now Fingerprint will help in finding out if someone has handled or ingested cocaine

In many countries, the use of hard drugs such as cocaine is illegal and punishable by law. When authorities suspect cocaine use, blood tests are the norm. However, these tests require time and a complex supply chain before obtaining the first results. Recently, a team of researchers has developed a device capable of distinguishing, on the basis of a fingerprint, whether the person concerned has ingested or simply handled cocaine, all in less than two minutes.

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A single fingerprint can discriminate if someone has recently touched or actually ingested cocaine. This test can be done in less than 2 minutes, much faster than blood tests, and could be used for forensic investigations or drug testing. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Melanie Bailey of the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and her colleagues have developed a technique that detects traces of cocaine, as well as signs of cocaine use, on human skin. In addition to cocaine, the test detects a molecule called benzoylecgonine, which is excreted through the skin after a person has ingested cocaine. The chemical is also present as an impurity in some samples of cocaine sold on the street.

Mass spectrometry to detect traces of benzoylecgonine

But a person who has ingested cocaine will continue to excrete the molecule through sweat, so even after washing their hands, it is detectable in a fingerprint.

Bailey and his team took fingerprints of people who had touched 99% purity cocaine samples as well as much less pure street samples. They took the fingerprints immediately after handling the medication and again after the participants washed their hands.

Diagram of the mass spectrometry (MS) detection process. Credits: M. Jang et al. 2020

They also took the fingerprints of 26 people at a drug addiction clinic, who said they had used cocaine in the past 24 hours. For the test, the individual presses his finger on a piece of specialized paper for 10 seconds. The paper is then analyzed using a technique called mass spectrometry, to detect the presence of cocaine or benzoylecgonine.

Accurate, fast and reliable detection

In the 86 samples, the fingerprinting technique was 95% accurate. The team found that detection was possible up to 48 hours after contact or ingestion. Unlike blood tests, which are the current standard for testing cocaine use, fingerprint analysis can be done in less than 2 minutes.

(Top): Results of cocaine detection in the fingerprint of three volunteers (D1, D2, D3) at different times during 48 hours after touching 2 mg of 99% pure cocaine (A). And at different times for 12 days after touching 0.5 mg and 2 mg of 99% pure cocaine, respectively (B). (Bottom): Results of cocaine detection in the fingerprints of three volunteers (D1, D2, D3) at different times after washing their hands, after touching 0.5 mg (A) and 2 mg (B) 99% pure cocaine. Credits: M. Jang et al. 2020

The technique is now commercially available and could be used for drug testing. It could also be used in the future as a forensic tool to determine the presence of cocaine in fingerprints left at a crime scene, although the method may require further validation by then, explains David Berry, independent toxicology consultant in the UK.


On the relevance of cocaine detection in a fingerprint

M. Jang, C. Costa, J. Bunch, B. Gibson, M. Ismail, V. Palitsin, R. Webb, M. Hudson & M. J. Bailey

Scientific Reports

volume 10, Article number: 1974 (2020)

Friday, 7 February 2020

Portable bio-printer can treat severe burns by "printing" skin

Severe burns are often complicated lesions to treat. The greater the extent, the more complex the conventional treatment by skin grafting and may even prove impossible in certain cases. In addition, the topology and shape of the burn can also complicate the process. Recently, a team of researchers has developed a portable dermal printer capable of printing a biofilm infused with precursor dermal cells directly on burns, allowing rapid and reliable regrowth of all layers of the skin, and showing better therapeutic results. than other standard treatments.

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A team of researchers in Canada has successfully tested a new portable 3D skin printer that treats severe burns by "printing" new skin cells directly to a wound.

Although the new system is in the early stages of development, it could potentially provide a way to treat patients whose burns are too large to allow skin grafts. The results were published in the journal IOP Publishing Biofabrication .

Skin grafting and collagen structuring: limited standard treatments

Lead author, University of Toronto professor Axel Günther explains: "Skin grafts, where damaged tissue is removed and replaced with skin taken from another area of ​​the patient's body, is standard treatment for severe burns. However, in cases where a patient has extensive full-thickness burns - which destroys both the upper and lower layers of the skin - there is not always enough healthy skin to use.”

Skin grafting and collagen restructuring are the two conventional treatments for burns. But depending on the extent and severity of the sores, they can be limited. Credit: LeFigaro

"While there are alternatives - including scaffolds using bovine collagen or artificial skin substitutes grown in vitro - none is ideal. Collagen scaffolds depend on the tissue and cells surrounding the wound to heal completely, while in vitro skin substitutes can take several weeks to prepare and are difficult to successfully apply to a patient when the burn area is large.”

Dermal printer: it provides fast, reliable healing for all types of wounds

To overcome these challenges, the research team designed a portable device to deposit precursor sheets directly on wounds of any size, shape or topography.

It uses a biological link based on fibrin - a protein involved in blood clotting - infused with mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), which support the growth of local cells and help the body's immune response. The sheets are "printed" directly on the wound from the flexible roller of the device.

(a): Schematic illustration of how the device is used. (b): Image showing how the device delivers biofilm directly to the wound surface. Credits: Richard Y Cheng et al. 2020

Marc Jeschke, medical director of the Ross Tilley Burn Center at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, says: “In general, the wound surfaces for which we designed this device are not flat or oriented horizontally. One of the most important advantages of the device is that it should allow the uniform deposition of a bio-bonding layer on inclined surfaces. In this study, we tested whether the device could do this effectively by using it to treat full-thickness burns in pigs.”

“We found that the device successfully deposited the 'skin sheets' on the wounds in a uniform, safe and reliable manner, and they stayed in place with very little movement. More importantly, our results showed that wounds treated with MSC healed extremely well, with reduced inflammation, scarring and contractions compared to untreated wounds and those treated with collagen scaffold.”


PAPER: Handheld instrument for wound-conformal delivery of skin precursor sheets improves healing in full-thickness burns

Richard Y Cheng, Gertraud Eylert, Jean-Michel Gariepy, Sijin He, Hasan Ahmad, Yizhou Gao, Stefania Priore4, Navid Hakimi, Marc G Jeschke, and Axel Günther

Published 4 February 2020

Biofabrication, Volume 12, Number 2

Friday, 31 January 2020

A new type of artificial neural network inspired by the human brain

The artificial intelligence was an outstanding technological development in recent years. The development of ever more optimized neural networks allows AI to solve complex tasks and learn new solving methods on its own. However, this adaptability shows its limits: when contextual conditions change, AI often has difficulty adapting directly to these variations. In humans, this adaptation is due to neuromodulation. This is why a team of researchers has tried to reproduce this cognitive capacity to adapt it to a new type of neural network, and the results have proved very satisfactory.

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Despite the immense progress made in the field of AI in recent years, we are still very far from human intelligence. Indeed, if current AI techniques make it possible to train IT agents to perform certain tasks better than humans when they are specifically trained, the performance of these same agents is often very disappointing when put in conditions (even slightly) different from those presented during the training.

Human beings are able to adapt very effectively to new situations using the skills they have acquired throughout their lives. For example, a child who has learned to walk in a living room will also quickly learn to walk in a garden. In such a context, learning to walk is associated with synaptic plasticity, which changes the connections between neurons, while the rapid adaptation of walking skills learned in the living room to those necessary for walking in the garden is associated to neuromodulation.

Reproducing human neuromodulation in the context of artificial intelligence

Neuromodulation changes the input-output properties of the neurons themselves via chemical neuromodulators. Synaptic plasticity is the basis of all the latest advances in AI. However, no scientific work has so far proposed a means of introducing a mechanism of neuromodulation in the networks of artificial neurons. This result, described in the journal PLOS ONE , is the result of a collaboration between neuroscientists and researchers in artificial intelligence from the University of Liège.

To implant artificial neuromodulation, the researchers created a neural network made up of two sub-networks: the first collects and analyzes contextual information, and the second processes this information to decide what actions to take. The first thus acts as a neuromodulator on the second, so that the whole network adapts quickly to contextual changes. Credits: Nicolas Vecoven et al. 2020

These ULiège researchers developed a completely original artificial neural network architecture, introducing an interaction between two subnets. The first takes into account all the contextual information concerning the task to be solved and, from this information, neuromodulates the second sub-network in the manner of the chemical neuromodulators of the brain.

Artificial neuromodulation: it allows an effective adaptation to changes

Thanks to neuromodulation, this second sub-network, which determines the actions to be performed by the intelligent agent, can therefore adapt very quickly to the task at hand. This allows the agent to efficiently resolve new tasks.

This innovative architecture has been successfully tested on classes of navigation problems for which adaptation is necessary. In particular, the agents trained to move towards a target, while avoiding obstacles, were able to adapt to situations in which their movement was disturbed by extremely variable wind directions.

Teacher. Damien Ernst: “The novelty of this research is that, for the first time, the cognitive mechanisms identified in neuroscience find algorithmic applications in a multitasking context. This research opens perspectives in the AI ​​exploitation of neuromodulation, a key mechanism in the functioning of the human brain”.


Introducing neuromodulation in deep neural networks to learn adaptive behaviours

Nicolas Vecoven, Damien Ernst, Antoine Wehenkel, Guillaume Drion

PLoS ONE 15(1): e0227922.


Future 6G technology could be up to 8,000 times faster than 5G

With the world just starting to roll out the new 5G technology, China announced a few months ago that it will start researching 6G technology. Several companies and research institutions have met in working groups for a planned deployment as early as 2030. Japan and the United States have also made statements about similar research. 6G, which could be 8000 times faster than 5G, would put an end to current smartphones and pave the way for brain-computer interfaces as well as connected buildings.

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After launching 5G networks in 50 cities in late 2019 and before the initial deployment deadline, China has officially focused on 6G innovation. The Ministry of Science and Technology announced in November 2019 its intention to launch a nationally coordinated research effort, specifically focused on the development of 6G technology.

Although the deployment of 5G is still in its infancy and most mobile users continue to operate on 4G networks, the country announced on Thursday its intention to launch two separate working groups that will focus specifically on advancement of 6G.

6G development: the end of the smartphone era?

A group will be made up of the ministries concerned, with the aim of promoting the development and implementation of 6G. While the other will be made up of people representing 37 universities, research institutes and companies, who will provide advice and ideas on the technical aspects of the deployment of 6G. It is also important to note that, although China was one of the first countries to deploy a massive 5G system, it has received international scrutiny in most of its efforts.

Researchers are already offering some examples of revolutionary 6G applications, including wireless brain-computer interactions, which introduce new use cases that allow technology to be literally controlled by the brain. " Today's wireless networks can't really handle brain commands, so it's very exciting for 6G ."

They also predict that 6G will usher in the “end of the smartphone era”. In today's cellular networks, the devices now communicate with centralized base stations. With 6G, researchers in the United States, China and elsewhere predict that smart surfaces and metamaterials will make way for the walls of buildings to become base stations with which devices communicate.

5G technology: an emerging network 100 times faster than 4G

5G has the potential to be 10 to 100 times faster than the 4G networks that most smartphones currently use. This network has been operating since 2009, which took over from the 3G networks launched in the early 2000s and the 2G networks that brought global sms for the first time in the 1990s. Mahyar Shirvanimoghaddam, a wireless communications expert at the University of Sydney says there are three main areas that separate 5G from 4G: speed, capacity and stability.

The deployment of the infrastructure necessary for the 5G network will allow multiple uses such as intelligent urban communication and multi-object interactions. Credit: Qovo

This emerging network is expected to increase the digitization of everyday life - from smart appliances to autonomous vehicles or even medical equipment. 5G networks on a smartphone offer users the ability to download an entire serial season in seconds.

6G network: a technology potentially 8000 times faster than 5G

Shirvanimoghaddam says 6G networks could give users speeds of 1 terabyte per second, or 8000 gigabits per second. To put that into perspective, streaming Netflix at its highest quality for an hour is equivalent to 56 gigabits of data, so in terms of 6G, you would be able to download just over 142 hours of higher quality video than Netflix every second.

This data processing capacity has the potential to completely change the relationship humans have with technology, as the 6G era could allow devices to be used via our brains. The vast majority of these devices will rely on cloud services that require higher network bandwidths. 5G simply will not be able to provide this service.

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