A robot with a living brain

A robot that is controlled himself with his own brain composed of biological neurons in culture was manufactured by British scientists.The robot works with neurons in rats. University of Reading
This is probably the first hybrid machine / animal ever created. Gordon is “alive” since a big week in a laboratory at the University of Reading, England. His brain is composed of neurons from a fetal rat. They were placed in a solution, separated and then deposited on a bed of sixty electrodes.

This multi-electrode array (MTCT) is the interface between living tissue and machine. It allows the brain to send electrical impulses to lead the wheels, for example. And conversely, it receives information on its environment delivered by sensors.

The key here is to assess the learning capabilities of this robot with a living brain. Gordon already seems to learn by repetition. For example, when it hits a wall, brain stimulation and receives a habit he learned to work around the obstacle. The key to learning is the memory that occurs in neurons that have begun to forge connections and multiply in the brain.

“Now we are studying how to learn: by increasing the voltage on different electrodes, using chemicals to promote or stop transmissions between neurons” explains Kevin Warwick, head of the cyber unit of the University of Reading. And Gordon does not have a single brain, but several MTCT that can be placed on the robot. According to researchers, everyone seems to have its own personality: one more adventurous, the other disobedient, yet one that does not bump …

Each of MTCT is currently composed of 50 000 100 000 neurons against about two hundred million for a rat brain and some 100 billion for a man. Researchers can study and manipulate a number of basic processes, something that would be impossible in vivo. According to them, the neurons in rats are not so different from those of humans, the capabilities of our brain are related to the number of neurons rather than a qualitative difference. Gordon is a simplified model of a human brain.

This research could lead to complete the study of treatments for the fight against neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson …).