NOTE: This is an update on a previous Neuron News article.
The Potter research group in the Laboratory for Neuroengineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology is making grand strides with their work in building a “simple” moving robot that is controlled by living brain cells.
The group has successfully demonstrated the direct connection of rat neurons to a robotic device, which is then controlled by the electrical activity of the neurons. The robot used in this important study was built by K-Team S.A., a Swiss company that manufactures mobile minirobots for use in advanced education and research.
Brain cells extracted from a rat brain are dropped into a glass dish that is covered with metal electrodes. The cells settle in an uncontrolled way onto the contacts, and are kept alive (not a simple task!) so that the resulting electrical activity from the living cells may be detected and transmitted to the wiring of the robot.
A primary goal of this work is to figure out how these networks result in some physical activity, which then might lead to more clear understandings about how our brain works when we think, remember, and move our bodies.
The result? “It’s alive! Alive!” Although, you’ll have to believe the still picture on the linked website article, as no movies seem to be available at the time of this posting. This development seems quite exciting. On the other hand, the wife of this editor certainly doesnot like mice, and she might not appreciate minirobots controlled by mice brains. Well, with some advancements in science there inevitably come some downsides.