Rise of the Rat-Brained Robots!

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[YouTube - Link]
Mark Hammond and colleagues at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom have found a way to control a robot with rat neurons. Watch this short video by Newscientist to see the robot in action.

From the article:

This is no ordinary robot control system - a plain old microchip
connected to a circuit board. Instead, the controller nestles inside a
small pot containing a pink broth of nutrients and antibiotics. Inside
that pot, some 300,000 rat 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.

It's
these spontaneous electrical patterns that researchers at the
University of Reading in the UK want to harness to control a robot. If
they can do so reliably, by stimulating the neurons with signals from
sensors on the robot and using the neurons' response to get the robots
to respond, they hope to gain insights into how brains function. Such
insights might help in the treatment of conditions like Alzheimer's,
Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

- via newscientist

From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by su.wei.


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Newest 5 Comments

As a science nerd, I find this amazing and awe-inspiring.

As a sci-fi geek, I just shake my head in amazement that everyone forgets how this will turn out. (Disaster prevention hint: Don't let the robot have WiFi!)

I suppose I should prepare to welcome our Rattus Cyborg overlords.
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This may lead to something like the "neural gel-packs" that comprised the ship's computer on "Star Trek: Voyager" - an interesting premise that never really got explored on the series except in one episode where an organic virus infected the computer. (I think the neural gel was supposed to be an advantage over a purely electronic circuit; some script-writer may also have been fascinated by the sci-fi concept of "living starships".)

It may also need a combination of arsenic and an electric fence to take it off-line.
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