‘Brain’ in a dish acts as autopilot, living computer

Thomas DeMarse, a University of Florida biomedical engineer, has grown a living “brain” with 25,000 living neurons, or nerve cells, taken from a rat’s brain and cultured inside a glass dish.


The “brain” can already interact with an F-22 fighter jet flight simulator through a plate called a multi-electrode array and a desktop computer.

To control the simulated aircraft, the neurons first receive information from the computer about flight conditions, then they analyze the data and respond by sending signals to the plane’s controls. Those signals alter the flight path and new information is sent to the neurons, creating a feedback system.

Besides, researchers hope that a close watch of how brain cells interact will allow them to understand what causes neural disorders such as epilepsy and to determine noninvasive ways to intervene. As living computers, they may someday be used to fly small unmanned airplanes or handle tasks that are dangerous for humans. “If we can extract the rules of how these neural networks are doing computations like pattern recognition, we can apply that to create novel computing systems,” DeMarse said.

Via Eurekalert.