Here are several highlights of Georgia Tech research presented at the symposium:
In an effort to create brain-inspired sensors and gain new insight into how memories are formed in the human brain, Hang Lu, an assistant professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a researcher with the Center for Biologically Inspired Design and Engineering (CBID) at Georgia Tech, is studying how sensory- and memory-related genes are expressed and regulated in tiny micro-sized worms by observing the worms' behavior on an equally micro-sized chip.
"Nature has evolved a very efficient sensing system for the worms. The worms are very good at finding mates, finding food, avoiding predators and finding a good home. We're hoping we can learn a lot from this highly evolved sensing system," Lu said.
The key is deciphering how the very small worms (about 50 microns in diameter, much smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and with only 302 neurons altogether) integrate their keen sensory information about their environment into their brain. A certain stimulus, such as the presence of undesirable bacterial food, triggers changes in sensory neurons that stimulate other neurons to give rise to an avoidance behavior, and can also create a memory imprint in the worm's brain.
In order to figure out which neurons are activated for a particular behavior, Lu and her team use a laser beam to operate on worm neurons and then study the behavior after the lesion forms. A genetic technique is used to make certain neurons produce jellyfish's green fluorescent protein, and the laser beam then targets the green neurons.