Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from Kristina Grifantini

Neurons Control Robot

Scientists give a robot a biological “brain.”

  • August 13, 2008

Researchers at the University of Reading, in England, have developed a robot controlled by a biological “brain.” Hundreds of thousands of rat neurons communicate via a multielectrode array–a dish with over 60 two-way electrodes that transmit signals between neurons and outside electronics–to control the movement of a wheeled robot. When the neurons receive signals that the robot is nearing an object, their output moves the wheels in an attempt to avoid obstacles. The researchers, led by neuroscientists Mark Hammond, Ben Whalley, and cyberneticist Kevin Warwick, suggest that by stimulating the neurons with different signals as the robot returns to a familiar location, they will be able to study how a brain stores data. Their goal is to eventually understand memory formation and disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Researchers have used live neurons to control robots in the past, but those involved a computer between the neurons and robot. One of the more public projects, MEART (multielectrode array art), turned signals from cultured rat neurons at the Georgia Institute of Technology into the movements of a picture-drawing robot at the University of Western Australia.

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.