A group of mad scientists from Reading University in the UK have hooked up a bunch of rat brain neurons to a circuit board and gotten it to control a robot. What resulted what a robot on wheels that used its rat brain to avoid running into obstacles. How unsettling!
This is no ordinary robot control system - a plain old microchip connected to a circuit board. Instead, the controller nestles inside a small pot containing a pink broth of nutrients and antibiotics. Inside that pot, some 300,000 rat neurons have made - and continue to make - connections with each other. As they do so, the disembodied neurons are communicating, sending electrical signals to one another just as they do in a living creature. We know this because the network of neurons is connected at the base of the pot to 80 electrodes, and the voltages sparked by the neurons are displayed on a computer screen.
The researchers hope that they'll learn about how the brain works via this project, leading to advances in treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's. I'm hoping it doesn't lead to an army of rat robots bent on destruction. We'll see what happens, I guess! [New Scientist via Slashdot]