Monday, September 14, 2009

Rat Brain Cells for Robots

Three hundred thousand rat brain cells (held by gloved hand) cultured in a nutrient bath and firing electrical signals have been used as the brain of a robot to navigate in a tight space.

Researchers Kevin Warwick and Ben Whalley at the University of Reading in the UK were able to connect the rat neurons with the output of a robot's distance sensors, thereby becoming the "brain." The distance sensors feed the neurons information that cause reactions in the form of electrical signals that are used to power the motors for navigation.

The scientists say the next step would be to use cultured human neurons, which they say could prove to be useful in the study of neurological conditions like epilepsy. They say the way the rat neurons respond to stimulus, releasing an electrical burst all at the same time, could be similar to what happens in an epileptic's brain during a seizure.

If successful, the team would be the first to use human brain cells in a robot to control its movement. They will be comparing how rat brain cells perform against human ones. For your information, cultured human brain cells are readily available for purchase for lab work. Warwick and Whalley need not harvest them from any corpse or a living brain.

This Wall-E toy robot doesn't have rat brain cells in its head, but it will still give you tons of fascinating excitement with the remote control unit. Relive the movie at home! Click here or on the image to place your order.

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