il neurone sintetico vuole essere una rivoluzione

da questo articolo de La Repubblica (13 luglio 2015)

Funziona come un trasformatore, convertendo segnali chimici in elettrici e quindi di nuovo chimici: in futuro il minuscolo dispositivo potrebbe essere impiantato per e utilizzato per trattare disturbi neurologici

Nel nostro cervello abbiamo qualcosa come 86 miliardi di neuroni, ognuno dei quali può formare migliaia di sinapsi. In questa enorme e complicata rete viaggiano e trovano la strada (senza quasi mai perdersi) le informazioni più diverse: da quelle visive, a quelle olfattive e uditive, a quelle che codificano un movimento, un pensiero, un ricordo. E tutto si realizza grazie ai neuroni, le cellule del sistema nervoso, che raccolgono un segnale chimico (da un neurotrasmettitore), lo trasformano in un segnale elettrico (il potenziale d’azione che viaggia lungo l’assone, il cordone dei neuroni) e lo riconvertono in un segnale chimico (un nuovo neurotrasmettitore) all’estremità opposta. Semplificando e in termini generali, è questa la catena di eventi che permette ad un’informazione di viaggiare.

Di recente, un team di ricercatori del Swedish Medical Nanoscience Centre (SMNC) del Karolinska Institutet è riuscito a mimarla creando un neurone sintetico. Sottile e lungo pochi centimetri (poco più di un polpastrello), il neurone biomimetico presentato sulle pagine di Biosensors & Bioelectronics non è fatto di materiale vivente (biologico), eppure riesce perfettamente a comunicare con cellule umane. A spiegare come funziona è Agneta Richter-Dahlfors, la ricercatrice a capo del progetto: “Il nostro neurone artificiale è costituito di polimeri conduttivi (materiali in grado di condurre corrente elettrica) e funziona come un neurone umano“. Il neurone sintetico è costituito di due parti:

  • una sensibile, costituita da un biosensore, che percepisce cambiamenti di segnali chimici;
  • ed una che trasforma questi cambiamenti in un segnale elettrico, tradotto nuovamente in un segnale chimico attraverso un costrutto assimilabile a una pompa ionica.


Se le due estremità del neurone vengono collegate a due piastre di Petri diverse (le normali piastre da laboratorio) è possibile indurre un cambiamento chimico nella prima e osservare il rilascio di un neurotrasmettitore nella seconda. Tutto questo è possibile perché il segnale elettrico generato da un cambiamento nell’ambiente chimico nella prima capsula viene interpretato e utilizzato per guidare il rilascio di un altro trasmettitore all’altra estremità del neurone sintetico, capace di avere effetti su cellule presenti nell’altra capsula. Più o meno come farebbe un neurone reale. I ricercatori sperano ora di riuscire a miniaturizzare il dispositivo, così che possa essere utilizzato per trattare disturbi neurologici. L’idea, infatti, è che uno o più neuroni sintetici possano essere stimolati – e quindi produrre un effetto – a partire da cambiamenti chimici dell’ambiente e non solo elettrici. Dispositivi analoghi potrebbero essere impiantati e usati per recuperare funzioni perse in seguito a danno neuronale o magari essere utilizzati per produrre degli effetti a distanza, sfruttando la tecnologia wireless, spiega Richter-Dahlfors: “Il biosensore potrebbe infatti essere collocato in una parte del corpo, e innescare il rilascio di neurotrasmettitori in luoghi distanti. Potremmo immaginare sia un sistema autoregolato sia controllato da un telecomando, immaginando nuove strategie per il trattamento dei disturbi neurologici“.

D T. Simon, K. C. Larsson, D. Nilsson, G. Burström, D. Galter, M. Berggren, A. Richter-Dahlfors, “An organic electronic biomimetic neuron enables auto-regulated neuromodulation“, Biosensors & Bioelectronics, first online 22 April 2015, Volume 71, 15 September 2015, Pages 359–364.

Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers

source: this website

This open letter will be officially announced at the opening of the IJCAI 2015 conference on July 28, and we ask journalists not to write about it before then. Journalists who wish to see the press release in advance of the embargo lifting may contact TOBY WALSH. Hosting, signature verification and list management are supported by FLI; for administrative questions about this letter, please contact TEGMARK (AT) MIT.EDU.

Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

1321Many arguments have been made for and against autonomous weapons, for example that replacing human soldiers by machines is good by reducing casualties for the owner but bad by thereby lowering the threshold for going to battle. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc. Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group. We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity. There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.

Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future societal benefits. Indeed, chemists and biologists have broadly supported international agreements that have successfully prohibited chemical and biological weapons, just as most physicists supported the treaties banning space-based nuclear weapons and blinding laser weapons.

In summary, we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.

Robotics Research Jam Sessions 2015


The 5th edition of the Robotics Research Jam Session organized by Centro  E. Piaggio – University of Pisa with the IIT Department of Advanced Robotics will be held on July 21, 2015. The program is inspired to the theme of Soft Robotics for Natural Human-Robot Interaction is available by clicking on the image below, as well as on the official website of the event. Registration is free and can be done here.


ISO standardisation for industrial and service robots

from this EU-Robotics Newsletter (author: Theo Jacobs)

As the market for service robots is growing constantly, the demand for standards in this area rises. Product specific safety standards are of great value to manufacturers as they ease hazard analysis and also reduce the legal risk for research facilities and companies. Other standards, e.g. for terminology, modularity or performance measurement can help to reduce trade barriers and to foster market growth. To satisfy this demand, the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) through its committee TC 184/ SC 2 has been developing standards for industrial and service robots for many years. Communicating standardisation results to the European robotics community is an important goal of the RockEUEU-funded project RockEU. Therefore, a newsletter on latest development in ISO standardisation has been compiled and is now available at euRobotics website: click here for the PDF file.

As the development of entirely new standards, especially safety standards, is happening at this very moment, companies and research institutes have the unique chance to join standardisation committees, to communicate their needs and to contribute to standard development with their expertise. All ISO standardisation related to robots takes place in committee TC 184/SC 2 (robots and robotic devices), which is currently organised in six working groups (click on the image below).


Standards are developed through the instrument of commenting: during balloting periods, each national standardisation organisation has the possibility to submit comments proposing to change, delete or add text to the respective standard. In the international meetings, these comments are resolved in discussions and agreed changes are applied to the document. Nations that are currently actively participating in developing these standards are Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, United Kingdom and the United States. The working groups usually meet three times a year, in turns in North America, Europe and Asia. Meetings of the SC 2 committee are held every one and a half years. Working groups are open for all motivated contributors. Experts are explicitly encouraged to participate.

In order to foster European participation in international standardisation meetings, the project RockEU offers travel cost reimbursement for persons who are interested in contributing and want to visit these meetings for the first time.

ROBOT’2015 – 2nd Iberian Robotics Conference

The second Iberian Robotics Conference will take place at Lisbon, Portugal (November 19-21, 2015) and follows the First Iberian Robotics Conference held in Madrid in 2013. This previous and successful event, both from the viewpoint of their scientific and technical quality, and for the important number of attending delegates, have motivated us in organizing ROBOT 2015.


ROBOT’2015 main goal is to continue the precedent efforts in showing the robotic research and development of new applications in the Iberian Peninsula. Although focused on the works developed at Iberia the conference is open for good quality submissions from any country in the world. As in previous editions we plan to publish the conference proceedings with Springer – Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing Series, indexed by Thomson ISI Web of Knowledge andSCOPUS. Extended versions of the conference best papers will also be published in Special Issues from several top Journals.

Robot’2015 is organized by:

  • SPR – Sociedade Portuguesa de Robótica
  • SEIDROB – Sociedad Española para la Investigación y Desarrollo en Robótica
  • GTROB – Grupo de Robótica de CEA

The event is co-located with RoCKIn Competition 2015.


Robot’2015 will also have a Tech Transfer and Innovation Session. This session will be focused in the connection between academia and industry for knowledge transfer. The objective is to look for successful projects about startup companies, collaborative projects academia-industry, patent licensing or technical assistance to the industry that means a real translation of the research results to innovative products or services in the field of robotics. The international tech knowledge projects where are involved Portuguese and Spanish entities, like the European Frame Program, CYTED, INTERREG, MED, EUREKAS, IBEROEKA and others, are especially welcome. You are welcome to send a short paper about your knowledge transfer history for participate in this session. The session will be complemented with the participation of a Spanish techno park and a Portuguese techno park in order to detail the services provide by these entities and an expert in the scope of Portuguese-Spanish collaborative innovation projects.