Scientists at Cortical Labs in Melbourne, Australia, along with international colleagues, have developed the “DishBrain,” a collection of neurons in a dish that is capable of learning and, amazingly, playing the classic computer game Pong.
The findings could create exciting new ways to understand the human brain, model neurological diseases, and more easily test the effects of drugs on the brain. In addition, they raise questions about the nature of emotions and intelligence (since we are not a philosophical publication, we will leave those questions to your own curiosity) and could even establish a whole new field of science. Not bad at all.
“This is brand-new, virgin territory,” says Hon Weng Chong, a researcher involved in the project. “And we want more people to join in and collaborate, to use the system we have built to further explore this new area of science. As one of our collaborators said, “It’s not every day that you wake up and you can create a new field of science.
“What’s remarkable is that cultures have learned to make their world more predictable by acting on it. That’s remarkable because you can’t teach this kind of self-organisation simply because, unlike a pet, these mini-brains have no sense of reward or punishment,” said Karl Friston, another researcher involved in the study. “The translational potential of this work is really exciting: It means we don’t have to worry about creating ‘digital twins’ to test therapeutic interventions. We now basically have the ultimate biomimetic ‘sandbox’ in which to test the effects of drugs and genetic variants – a sandbox made up of the exact same (neural) computational elements found in your brain and mine.”
In a humorous twist, researchers have already begun testing the effects of various intoxicants on the DishBrain’s ability to play pong. But these experiments highlight the potential of such systems for drug testing. “We’re trying to create a dose-response curve with ethanol – basically getting them ‘drunk’ and seeing if they play the game worse, just like when people drink,” said Brett Kagan, chief scientific officer at Cortical Labs.
Via: Cortical Labs
Hi, I’m Oren, founder at BIGINTRO, a content strategy agency that helps B2B companies drive growth. We develop search, social, PR, and content marketing strategies tailored to business goals. I also have a dog named Milo.