Turning into reality science fiction of films such as The Terminator, Canadian scientists have successfully connected brain cells to a silicon chip to “hear” conversations between brain tissues.

The neuro-chip, which has been developed by medicine scientists at the University of Calgary, will network brain cells and thus record brain cell activity at a resolution never achieved before, according to Naweed Syed who led the team that made the breakthrough.

The neuro-chip will help future understanding of how brain cells work under normal conditions and thus permit drug discoveries for a variety of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, a university statement said Tuesday.

“This technical breakthrough means we can track subtle changes in brain activity at the level of ion channels and synaptic potentials, which are also the most suitable target sites for drug development in neuro-degenerative diseases and neuropsychological disorders,” Syed, who is professor and head of the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, has been quoted as saying.

The new neuro-chips are also automated.

“Previously it took years of training to learn how to record ion channel activity from brain cells, and it was only possible to monitor one or two cells simultaneously. Now, larger networks of cells can be placed on a chip and observed in minute detail, allowing the analysis of several brain cells networking and performing automatic, large-scale drug screening for various brain dysfunctions,” the university statement said.

The University of Calgary is excited at the potential of this made in Canada technology, said university vice president Rose Goldsmith.

“The University of Calgary is proud to be the home of this cutting edge Canadian work with a neurochip. The advances in research and healthcare made by possible by this technology are immense. The work and collaboration happening in the lab of Naweed Syed is another example demonstrating our leadership in the field of biomedical engineering.”

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