Lab-grown ‘mini-brain’ that plays video games – 10/12/2022

They were first developed in 2013 and have since been used in research on brain development. It is expected that this could be used to test treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Researchers engineered brain cells in the lab that learned to play the video game Pong. They say your “mini-brain” can sense its environment and react to it.

In an article published in the journal Neuron, Brett Kagan of Cortical Labs claims to have created the first “sentient” brain grown in the lab.

Other experts describe the work as “exciting” but say that invoking the sensitivity of brain cells goes too far.

Sentience, a word widely used in animal ethics debates, refers to the ability to experience something and to develop specific feelings from that experience.

But Kagan says, “We couldn’t find a better term to describe it.”

“It can receive information from an external source, process it and react in real time.”

The mini-brain was first created in 2013 to study microcephaly, a genetic disorder in which the organ is born too small, and has since been used to research brain development.

But it’s the first time they connect to and react to an external environment, in this case a video game. In Pong, the goal is to move the bar across the screen so the ball doesn’t miss.

A team of researchers created a collection of 800,000 human brain cells from stem cells and mouse embryos.

This mini-brain connected to the video game via electrodes that indicated which way the ball was and how far it was hit.

In response, the cells would generate their own electrical activity and expend less energy during the game.

But when the ball was passed and play resumed with the ball in a random spot, they spent more energy trying to navigate the new, unpredictable situation.

Mini-brain learned to play in five minutes. He often missed the ball, but his success rate far exceeded the odds.

The researchers point out that because it has no consciousness, the mini brain does not know that it is playing Pong in the same way as a human player.

What is it for?

Kagan hopes the technology can be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“When people look at fabrics [humanos] In the laboratory, they see if there is activity. But the purpose of brain cells is to process information in real time,” he says. “Assessing their true function could benefit many other areas of research.”

Next, Kagan plans to test the effects of alcohol on the mini-brain’s ability to play Pong.

If it reacts similarly to the human brain, it shows how effective it is as a substitute.

Kagan’s description of his sentimental system, however, differs from many dictionary definitions, which say it means the ability to have feelings and sensations.

In the UK, Dean Burnett, a researcher at the Cardiff School of Psychology, prefers the term “system thinking”.

“There’s information that’s being received and clearly being used that’s causing the changes, so the stimulus they’re getting is basically being ‘thought out,'” he says.

The mini-brain will likely become more complex as research progresses, but Kagan’s team is working with bioethicists to ensure they don’t accidentally create a conscious brain, with all the ethical questions that could arise from that.

“We have to look at this new technology as something very similar to the computer industry, when the first transistors were poorly made prototypes, not very reliable, but after years of research, it led to technological miracles all over the world,” he says.

Artificial intelligence researchers have already created devices capable of defeating chess grandmasters.

But Carl Friston of University College London in the UK, who works with Kagan, said: “The mini-brain has learned without being taught and is therefore more adaptable and flexible.”

– This text was published in St https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-63153180

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