Tobi Delbruck
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The Physiologist's Friend

The Physiologist's Friend Chip is a neuromorphic analog VLSI chip that is a model of the early visual system. It has audible spiking cell responses to visual stimuli. You can use it in the lab or the lecture hall. In the lab it acts as a fake animal. You can use it to train students and to test data collection and analysis software. It sits in your toolbox like any other tool. In the lecture hall, you can use it with an overhead projector to do live demonstrations of how physiologists plot receptive fields. We have now open-sourced the complete design.

The Physiologist's Friend Simulation lets you use your laptop or desktop PC to plot receptive fields of simulated retinal and cortical cells on a simulated tangent sceen. You can hear the cell responses from your computer's speaker. With your laptop and a video projector, you can use it for classroom demonstration of cell response properties. It is written in Java, so it runs on Windows, Linux, Macs -- any platform that has a Java virtual machine.

Original cell recordings done by David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel can be seen in this Windows Media Format video, which was digitized from a very ancient VHS tape and annotated a bit. (This video may not download properly, even under Windows, when you use Mozilla as your browser.)


Tobi Delbruck (

September 30, 2007
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