Scientists create DNA ‘brain’ in a test tube

By Muriel Kane
Friday, July 29, 2011 22:48 EDT
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A research team at the California Institute of Technology has created an artificial neural network which is capable of solving a puzzle that involves identifying which of four pioneering IT scientists — Rosalind Franklin, Alan Turing, Claude Shannon, and Santiago Ramon y Cajal — is described by a series of yes/no questions.

DNA molecules were used to form four artificial neurons in test tubes, with each strange of DNA being programmed to interact with other strands in a manner similar to the firing of natural neurons in living creatures. At its best, the network was able to answer questions even when it had only incomplete information.

As explained by Discovery.com, “They turned to molecules because they knew that before the neural-based brain evolved, single-celled organisms showed limited forms of intelligence. These microorganisms did not have brains, but instead had molecules that interacted with each other and spurred the creatures to search for food and avoid toxins. The bottom line is that molecules can act like circuits, processing and transmitting information and computing data.”

The research was not undertaken merely for theoretical purposes. The same research team had recently shown that DNA logic gates could be used to calculate square roots, and Ars Technica notes that “DNA computing offers the potential of massively parallel calculations with low power consumption and at small sizes.”

The technology has the potential of amplifying the human brain, since “DNA computing components can easily interact and cooperate with our bodies or other cells.”

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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