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Rat Brained Robots! Rat Brained Robots! Gaaaahhhhh!!!!!!

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I'd bring up this little nugget: Scientists have created robots that are controlled by rat brains.

My first thought was something akin to this:


While I'm quite thankful to be wrong, I'm still creeped out.  Here's what we actually have:


I think we can agree that that's a lot less menacing than an army of giant rats.

The University of Reading in the UK has devised a robot controlled by roughly 300,000 rat neurons resting in a nutrient broth.  The neurons continually connect with each other, communicating electrical signals just like they would if they were sitting in the middle of a rat's noggin.  The neurons are connected to a set of electrodes.  The voltages created when these interact are displayed on a computer screen, allowing scientists to monitor the rat brain goo interaction with the robot platform.

At the time of this writing, all of this Frankenstein-like experimentation does is allow the robot to avoid plowing into objects.  But that's not the primary goal.

As scientists are still trying to determine exactly what is happening inside the brain goo, they are somewhat torn as to the results of the robots movements.  Some believe that the activity is something akin to an epileptic seizure, while others feel it is actual stored memory.  In either case, this sensory output has opened up a new method of studying disease pathology concerning such ailments as Alzheimer's.

It now becomes a case of whether all of the brain goo is responsible for this activity, or only a part of it.  And if so, which part?

So long as I don't see a human-sized version of one of these things rolling around, I'm okay.

Actually, the more I think about it, a human version of this would probably provide massive breakthroughs.  Finding a donor, however...  That may be difficult.  If it ended out being me (and at the rate I'm going, that's not entirely implausible), I'd hope they'd either paint a silly face on the front of my robotic rolling chamber or glue a Darth Vader helmet to the top.  Oooo... and put a looping MP3 of Vader's raspy breathing on it...

SOURCE: New Scientist