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A University of Florida scientist has created a living "brain" of cultured rat cells that now controls an F-22 fighter jet flight simulator.
Scientists say the research could lead to tiny, brain-controlled prosthetic devices and unmanned airplanes flown by living computers.
TextThe brain then communicates with the flight simulator through a desktop computer.
"We grow approximately 25,000 cells on a 60-channel multi-electrode array, which permits us to measure the signals produced by the activity each neuron produces as it transmits information across this network of living neurons," DeMarse told Discovery News. "Using these same channels (electrodes) we can also stimulate activity at each of the 60 locations (electrodes) in the network. Together, we have a bidirectional interface to the neural network where we can input information via stimulation. The network processes the information, and we can listen to the network's response."
The brain can learn, just as a human brain learns, he said. When the system is first engaged, the neurons don't know how to control the airplane; they don't have any experience.
One day, a team of researchers led by Philip Kramer decide to build a spaceship which is powered by a human brain. They find the ideal candidate, Kramer's old professor, a dying man who volunteers to donate his brain to the project.
The spaceship is built and on the first test run into outer space, the team discovers that the professor made some changes to the ship, giving him—or rather, his brain—full control over the ship. Sensing trouble, the team flees the ship, leaving the empty ship, piloted by the professor, into outer space. Later, the spaceship returns and kidnaps Kramer and his wife, and on board the ship, the professor's brain informs them that they'll be looking for a new planet to colonize, to start over, as the professor sees no hope in mankind and what it has become—a species which desires, above all else, war.