Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Two little gems from Bob Abu this morning (thanks!):

First is the Allen Brain Atlas, so named after the Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, whose goal is to create…

…a detailed cellular-resolution, genome-wide map of gene expression in the mouse brain. The completion of the sequencing of the mouse brain and the availability of techniques to probe gene expression amenable to scale-up and automation have made this an achievable, albeit ambitious, goal. The Allen Brain Atlas has created an automated platform for high-throughput in situ hybridization (ISH) that allows a highly systematic approach for analyzing gene expression in the brain.

The atlas is open and free to anyone, located at They claim to have mapped the gene expression for over 20,000 mouse genes. The atlas is an important tool for understanding human genetics (and disease) and humans and mice share many (90%) of the same genes. This same foundation (Allen Institute for Brain Science) also sponsors the Neuroscience Gateway, a collaboration with Nature to provide a source for neuroscience news. When you’re not checking Retrospectacle, that is!

Second on the list of tasty treats is straight outta the Matrix, literally. Sony is involved in a new project which is attempting to input game data directly into the brain so the player can experience realistic sights, sounds, and smells. In fact, they just patented a device which they purport can do just that.

The technique suggested in the patent is entirely non-invasive. It describes a device that fires pulses of ultrasound at the head to modify firing patterns in targeted parts of the brain, creating “sensory experiences” ranging from moving images to tastes and sounds. This could give blind or deaf people the chance to see or hear, the patent claims.

So, are you afraid that PhD in Neuroscience won’t do you any good aka make you any money? Think again. Sony will shell out the bucks just for the ideas, no wet-lab time needed:

Elizabeth Boukis, spokeswoman for Sony Electronics, says the work is speculative. “There were not any experiments done,” she says. “This particular patent was a prophetic invention. It was based on an inspiration that this may someday be the direction that technology will take us.”


  1. #1 luca
    October 25, 2006

    so, sony does not have a working prototype, let alone any real idea of how the thing would ‘modify the firing patterns’… but the patent still got accepted?

    quick, I must patent quantum-leap hyper-space ships… just in case…

  2. #2 CAlbert
    October 26, 2006

    “Bad Request

    Your browser sent a request that this server could not understand.
    Apache Server at Port 80″

    Not even Paul Allen will trust Microsoft ISS to handle this.

  3. #3 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    October 27, 2006

    All this time I thought Jack Daniels had my Brain and Soul.

  4. #4 neubrain
    October 29, 2006

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