This is nothing short of amazing!
According to an article in New Scientist (see video embed below), a robot has been developed which is controlled by a mass of disembodied rat neurons. The brain cells (about 300,000 of them) live (“IT’S ALIVE!!!”)…
inside a small pot containing a pink broth of nutrients and antibiotics. Inside that pot…neurons have made – and continue to make – connections with each other.
As they do so, the disembodied neurons are communicating, sending electrical signals to one another just as they do in a living creature. We know this because the network of neurons is connected at the base of the pot to 80 electrodes, and the voltages sparked by the neurons are displayed on a computer screen.
To create the “brain”, the neural cortex from a rat fetus is surgically removed and disassociating enzymes applied to it to disconnect the neurons from each other. The researchers then deposit a slim layer of these isolated neurons into a nutrient-rich medium on a bank of electrodes, where they start reconnecting. They do this by growing projections that reach out to touch the neighbouring neurons. “It’s just fascinating that they do this,” says Steve Potter of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, who pioneered the field of neurally controlled animats. “Clearly brain cells have evolved to reconnect under almost any circumstance that doesn’t kill them.”
Like a creature with no limbs or senses, the cut-down brain is simply bursting out of boredom, says Whalley. “With no structured sensory input the hypothesis is that you get arbitrarily random and quite often detrimental activity because all these cells are asking for some kind of direction.”
Here’s the video…
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