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March 04, 1986 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-03-04

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Page 2 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 4, 1986

'U' scientists research

A new microelectronic brain probe
being researched at the University is
on the verge of opening a new area of
study in the nervous sytem and may
some day help restore hearing and
sight to those whose ability is im-
paired by neural damage, resear-
chers say. I
The probe, which consists of
microcircuitry on a t-shaped silicon
chip about the size of a pin head, holds
as many as 10 metal recording sites
and can monitor the signals of several
nerve cells in the brain at the same
time, scientists said.
BEFORE THIS invention, scientists
were restricted to monitor the signals
of single nerve cells by using metal
electrodes, usually in the form of
sharpened pins, said Ken Wise, an
electrical engineering and computer
science prof. and the leader of the
probe's research team.
The breakthrough is essential to
understanding how the nervous sytem
functions, said David Anderson, also
an electrical engineering prof. and
director of the bioelectrical sciences
By analyzing the signal of groups of
nerve cells scientists will be able to
determine how cells interact and
create thoughts and sensations, An-
derson said.
PREVIOUS TO the development of
the chip scientists were unable to test
theories formulated in the '60s by
neural scientists, Anderson said. He
added that with this technology scien-
tists will be able to test their theories
on a routine basis.
In addition to recording nervous
sytem activity, the probe can be
modified to stimulate nerve cells by
sending tiny electrical charges
through recording sites located on the
stem of the probe, said Ken Drake, a
graduate student on the research
team. The adaptation requires minor
changes in the probe construction,
mostly in the recording sites, he said.
The chip's ability to stimulate
groups of nerve cells means it could
be used some day in prosthetic
devices, which supplying artificial
sight and hearing, Anderson said.
IN A PROSTHETIC device the
probe would serve as a permanent
brain implant that would relay infor-
mation from the seeing and hearing
device to the brain. This is the
ultimate long-range goal of the
project, Anderson said.
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Researchers looks optimistically to
the probe's success, particularly in
recording capabilities. Incomplete
prototypes of the chip, which lack the
full array of electronic equipment,
have performed well in recent tests.
Anderson predicts that upcoming tests
with complete probes will yield
favorable results.
The probe "will certainly be suc-
cessful for neuropsychopsychological
recording," Anderson said.
DRAKE SAID researchers are less
certain about the probe's ability to
stimulate nerve cells because it has
not been tested in this capacity. But
he predicts that scientists will be suc-
cessful in this area in the future.
A "couple hundred" researchers
are needed to work with the chips so
that modifications and other uses can
be found for the chip, Drake said.
Two weeks ago, Drake and other
members of the research team for-
med a companyncalled Integrated
Microsystems, Inc. and will begin
manufacturing the chips as soon as a
grant comes through which has
already been approved. Drake said he
formed the company to make the
chips available to researchers in the
other disciplines around the country.
I HOPE WE make Ann Arbor
and the U of M the center for this kind
of technology," Drake said.
Drake said other universities are
performing similar research, but they
are not meeting the success that the
University has.
The chip has been built using state-
of-the-art silicon technology and, in
addition to the 10 recording sites,
carries electronics which amplify the
faint nerve impulses recorded at each
site and transmit the signals over a
single wire to monitoring devices.
The ability to transmit over a single
wire is important because it substan-
tially reduces problems like short cir-
cuiting and infection that accompany
the use of more than one wire, said
Anderson. This reliability is essential
for use in prosthetics because the
probe would be permanently implan-
ted, he said.
"Silicon is uniquely suited for use as
a computerized brain probe because it
already is used to make integrated
circuits, has the necessary
mechanical strength and is benign in
the body," said Wise. The chip can be
implated without injury, virtually
floating in brain tissue, he added.
"It's a fortunate blend of technology
and materials that allows us to do
this," he said.

NASA astronauts not told
of shuttle deficiencies
SPACE CENTER, Houston-NASA's astronauts were not informed that
engineers had been concerned for more than two years about the safety of
the space shuttles' solid-fuel rocket boosters, four veteran shuttle com-
manders said yesterday.
Astronaut Henry Hartsfield, one of four astronauts who broke a month-
long silence to talk to reporters, said he learned about a potential hazard
involving gaskets that seal joints on the boosters only after the shuttle
Challenger exploded Jan. 28.
Hartsfield, Vance Brand, Gordon Fullerton and Joe Engle said they
were never made aware of all the many parts of the shuttle that.are
called "criticality 1," parts whose failure would mean a catastrophic
Fullerton said the astronauts didn't have time to examine each system
aboard the complex shuttles and "there's an implied trust (in the
engineers) in flying on the shuttle."
None of the four would agree that there was a flaw in NASA's launch
decision process, as has been charged by the presidential commission in-
vestigating Challenger's explosion.
Jobless rate falls in 31 states
WASHINGTON-Average annual unemployment rates dropped in 31
states-including Michigan-in 1985, leaving only three states with the
percentage of jobless workers in double digits for the year, the gover-
nment reported yesterday.
Unemployment in Michigan dropped from 11.2 to 9.9 percent.
Joining Michigan in reducing joblessless to below 10 percent in 1985
were Alaska, down from 10.0 percent to 9.7 percent, and Alabama down
from 11.1 percent to 8.9 percent.
New England continued to enjoy the lowest unemployment rate of any
region of the country, slipping from 4.9 percent in 1984 to 4.4 percent last
year, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
Of the 18 states showing increases in the average annual unem-
ployment rate from 1984 to 1985, some of the biggest jumps were recorded
by those associated with farming and energy production.
West Virginia continued to have the highest unemployment rate in the
nation, 13 percent last year, down from 15 percent in 1984. The biggest
decrease in joblessness was in Alabama.
50,000 supporters mourn
assassinated ro-PLO leader
NABLUS, Occupied West Ba -A numan wave of 50,000 mourning
Palestinians carried the body of assassinated Mayor Zafer al-Masri
through his city yesterday in one of the largest demonstrations of support
for the PLO ever held in the Israeli-occupied West Bank,
Hours before the funeral, an Israeli soldier shot and killed a 57-year-old
Palestinian in the nearby Balata refugee camp and wounded the man's
17-year-old son during a demonstration to protest al-Masri's slaying,
Israeli military and Palestinian sources said.
The sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified, said the man
tried to attack an Israeli soldier attempting to break up the demon-
The thousands of men and youths, some of them weeping, chanted
slogans as they bore the body to a martyr's tomb in the courtyard of the
blue-domd mosque.
Al-Masri, 44, a businessman named by Israel as mayor last December,
was shot Sunday outside his office by an assailant who escaped into the
crowded market. Two pro-Syrian Palestinian groups have claimed
responsibility for the assassination.
S. African police gun down 7
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa-Police stopped a van they said was
carrying seven black guerrillas and killed all seven in the resulting
shootout yesterday in Guguletu township near Cape Town
Official reports said the men were sent by the outlawed African
National Congress to attack police officers.
Four bodies lay in the street and three more in the surrounding bush,
where they had been shot by pursuing police. Spent cartridges littered the
streets, and windows of surrounding buildings were shattered by gunfire.
The official reports said police lay in wait for more than four hours af-
ter being informed that the ANC was planning an attack.
They stopped the van near the township.police station soon after 7 a.m.,
the blacks started shooting and threw a grenade, and the police returned
fire, said a statement by Gen. Johan Coetzee, the police commissioner.
Seven "ANC terrorists" were killed and one officer was slightly woun-
ded, Coetzee's statement said.
Protestants riot in Belfast
BELFAST, North Ireland-Protestant militants hurled gasoline bombs
and stones in a rampage yesterday through central Belfast, and violent
protests hit Londonderry and other towns during a general strike to
demonstrate opposition to the Anglo-Irish accord.
At least 10 people were injured, eight vehicles were set on fire and a
clothing factory went up in flames in the most violent and widespread
protest against the Nov. 15 accord that gives the Catholic Irish Republic a
role in running the province.

In Londonderry, Protestant and Roman Catholic youths battled and
police fired plastic bullets when one of its vans was attacked.
The Protestants, who outnumber Catholics 3-2 in Northern Ireland, cut
electric power to hundreds of homes and managed to virtually paralyze
the province during the 24-hour strike. The Royal Ulster Constabulary
said 34 people were arrested in violent incidents.
Among the injured were four policemen and two women who were
stoned during an evacuation of the Saracen clothing factory in Lurgan, 15
miles southwest of Belfast.






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