Scientists Developing Robot Controlled by Human Brain Cells

by Rajashri on Sep 13 2009 2:19 PM

A robot that would be controlled by human brain cells is being developed by scientists from University of Reading.

Lead researchers Kevin Warwick and Ben Whalley have already used rat brain cells to control a simple wheeled robot.

During the study, the researchers grew around 300,000 rat neurons in a nutrient broth and device producing spikes of electrical activity were connected to the output of the robot's distance sensors.

The neurons could successfully steer the robot around a small enclosure.

Based on the findings rat models, the researchers are now working on steering the robot with the help of human brain cells.

The researchers believe that understanding how the neuron culture responds to stimulation could lead to deeper insights of neurological conditions such as epilepsy.

For instance, the way large numbers of neurons sometimes spike in unison - a phenomenon known as "bursting" - may be similar to what happens during an epileptic seizure.

The research team suggests if the behavior could be altered by changing the culture chemically, electrically or physically, it might pave way for potential therapies.

To make the system a better model of human disease, a culture of human neurons will be connected to the robot once the current work with rat cells is completed.

They will analyze the differences in the behavior of robots controlled by rat and human neurons.

"We'll be trying to find out if the learning aspects and memory appear to be similar," New Scientist quoted Warwick as saying.