Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Brain" in Dish Flies Simulated Fighter Jet

Scientists have grown a living "brain" that sits inside a petri dish and can fly a simulated F-22 fighter aircraft.

The brainchild of Thomas DeMarse, a biomedical engineer at the University of Florida in Gainesville, the "brain in a dish" is a collection of 25,000 neurons taken from the brain of a rat that are connected to a computer via 60 electrodes.

Neural network research may be setting the stage for the creation of so-called hybrid computers based on biological systems.

As the neurons begin to receive information from the computer about flight conditions—similar to how neurons receive and interpret signals from each other to control our bodies—the brain gradually learns to fly the aircraft.

"The neurons will analyze data from the computer, like whether the plane is flying level or is tilted to one side," DeMarse said. "The neurons respond by sending signals to the plane's controls to alter the flight path. New information is sent back to the neurons, creating a feedback system."
via National Geographic

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