The Worlds first Cyborg

The Worlds first Cyborg is here, with a robot being controlled by cultured Rat neurons via bluetooth.

Created by those clever people at the University of Reading, the Rat neurons are placed on a multi-electrode array (MEA) to form the brain of Gordon the robot.

The brain itself is housed in a special temperature controlled unit which contains a nutrient rich medium and the brain signals are sent via bluetooth to a small wheeled robot on wheels.

There are a number of "spare" brains that can be used, and according to the one of the principal architects professor Kevin Warwick, each show different personalities.

"It's quite funny -- you get differences between the brains," said Warwick. "This one is a bit boisterous and active, while we know another is not going to do what we want it to."

The groundbreaking experiments explore the boundry between natural and artificial intelligence, and could shed light on the fundamental building blocks of memory and learning.

According to Warwick, the purpose is to figure out how memories are actually stored in a biological brain. By observing the nerve cells, how they form a network and the way they fire off electrical impulses could also help scientists combat neuro-degenerative diseases that attack the brain such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Building the Brain

The specialised nerve cells are laid out onto the MEA in an eight by eight cm array of 60 electrodes. The MEA serves as the interface between the living tissue and the machine sending the electrical impulses to the robot and also recieving electrical signals from sensors reacting to the environment.

According to Warwick within 24 hours the neurons begin to connect to each other and within a week they begin to make spontaneous firings, or brain like activity like normal rat (or human) brains do.

What makes this even more incredible is that the "cyborg" self learns, hitting a wall for example teaches it to turn next time.

Due to ethical reasons it is highly unlikely that researchers will use human brain anytime soon but apparantly rat brains are a good substitute, with the argument that the main difference between the 2 is quantity over quality (rat brains have about 1 million neurons, human brains 100 billion, and politicians about 50 thousand).