The human brain is likened to a computer. Its billions of nerve fibres process limitless signals that translate into actions such as moving and thinking. To understand more about the brain’s processing capacity, scientists have replaced a robot’s CPU with living brain cells from a rat. Neuronal cells, cultured in a glass chamber containing a multi-array of electrodes, quickly make connections with neighbouring cells. Within a matter of days, electrical signals similar to those firing off in the brain, start firing across the cultured cell network, and this is enough to control the robot. When the electrical activity from the cell culture is sufficient to actuate the robot, and its sensor readings are converted into stimulation signals received by the culture, a feedback loop is created. The rat-brain robot can follow a forward path and ‘learn’ to stop when it reaches a wall. Where next for the ultimate cyborg?
Written by Caroline Cross
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.