Rat-brain robot created
The Rat-Bot cometh
One of the most fascinating science related books I have ever read is The Great Mambo Chicken And The Transhuman Condition. This story might as well be right out of its pages.
A robot controlled by a blob of rat brain cells could provide insights into diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Created at the University of Reading, the project marries 300,000 rat neurons to a robot that navigates via sonar.
The neurons are now being taught to steer the robot around obstacles and avoid the walls of the small pen in which it is kept.
By studying what happens to the neurons as they learn its creators hope to reveal how memories are laid down.
The blob of nerves forming the brain of the robot was taken from the neural cortex in a rat foetus and then treated to dissolve the connections between individual neurons.
Sensory input from the sonar on the robot is piped to the blob of cells to help them form new connections that will aid the machine as it navigates around its pen.
As the cells are living tissue, they are kept separate from the robot in a temperature-controlled cabinet in a container pitted with electrodes. Signals are passed to and from the robot via Bluetooth short-range radio.
The brain cells have been taught how to control the robot's movements so it can steer round obstacles and the next step, say its creators, is to get it to recognise its surroundings.
The story goes on to relate how this research will aid in understanding Alzheimers and Parkinsons.
It seems a shock to me the the original aim of the story was towards the use this will be to science in the future, and not the fact that they were actually able to make the Rat-Bot in the first place !! Have we become that numb to science that the creation of a rolling around rat brain thinking robot isn't news in itself ?
I don't know about you, but I am going to start picking out my robot body.