Brain cells grown in test tubes “play” with a video game from the 1980s

Brain cells that have grown in the test tube can also show up , learn to change their behavior over time to achieve a specific goal. A study published in the journal supports this hypothesis neuron and carried out by scientists from Cortical Labs in Melbourne, Australia, and ten other research institutes. The team, led by Cortical Labs scientific director Brett Kagan, harvested around 800,000 brain cells from human and mouse models. The aim of the experiment was to check whether the neurons in the test tube could change their behavior in order to be able to play pongthe famous table tennis-like video game produced by Atari and marketed as Arcade in 1972. The research team connected the set of neurons called DishBrain to the computer so they could transmit feedback signals that the racquet in the game actually hit the virtual ball. The neurons in the test tube were actually connected to gods Row of microelectrodes that could stimulate cells and evaluate their activity.

The researchers then monitored neural activity during the gaming session. “In complex life forms – says Kagan – neurons represent the starting point of generalized intelligence. We have wondered how it is possible to interact with neurons in order to use the intrinsic intelligence of cells”. As the survey shows, Activity spikes occur when neurons try to hit the ball. When the goal failed, software created by the team would criticize their style of play.

This work, the authors comment, shows that neurons can adapt their activity in the case of a changing environment and direct their behavior towards a specific goal. “We chose Pong because it’s easy – says Kagan – and because it’s one of the first programs to be used in machine learning. We gave the cells an unpredictable stimulus and the neurons reorganized Your business to maximize the result and minimize the random response“.

However, Pong wasn’t the only video game used by the research team. “We also tried to score the answers with the Project Bolan – reports Kagan – the program that starts when Google Chrome crashes. We’ve had some encouraging preliminary results, but there’s still work to be done to get new environments for personalization. “DishBrain – comments Hon Weng Chong, CEO of Cortical Labs – offers a simpler approach to testing how the brain works and Educate yourself about debilitating conditions like epilepsy and dementia“. Among the most interesting applications of this work, the researchers highlight the potential disease modelling, in the development of new medicines and in deepening our knowledge of how the brain and intelligence work. In the next few steps, the researchers will particularly focus on studying the effects of alcohol on the brain. “We are pushing a new frontier in understanding intelligence – Kagan concludes – our work lays the foundations for understanding the fundamental aspects of what it means to be human, but not only. DishBrain could help us deepen the mechanisms involved in the ability to process information and be sentient in a dynamic, constantly evolving world.

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Photo credit: Kagan et. al / neuron

Valentina DiPaola

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