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Rat Brain Cells Power a Computer

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Cells from rats hippocampus were used.

Independently-cultured rat brain cells have helped a robot navigate obstacles.

Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Indian Institute of Science researchers have demonstrated that cultured rat brain cells on a glass plate can read signals from an infrared-enabled robot, process the problem of obstacles, and give an appropriate, accurate solution.

The researchers took the cells and cultured them on a specialized glass plate covered with multiple electrodes that can detect small spikes in voltages generated by the cells. The cultured cells start to grow dendrites, and then the connected cells form a network that shows spontaneous electrical activity through tiny voltage spikes. The spikes are interpreted through a novel electronics platform that can detect and send electrical impulses to the cultured brain tissue through the embedded electrodes. Similar to the brain, the cultured tissue develops a coding system to decode the electrical spikes, and training is imparted through instructions coded as electrical spikes.

The researchers conducted an experiment in which an infrared robot senses obstacles. The impulses are fed through the computer to the cells, which process the information, and the resulting voltage spikes, which represent commands for front, back, left, and right, are translated into codes for the robot. The experiment ran for 10 minutes, with obstacles moved at random, and the researchers discovered the robot was able to navigate successfully about 98 percent of the time.

From The Hindu (India)
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