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Georgia Tech researchers use lab cultures to control robotic device

The Hybrot, a small robot that moves about using the brain signals of a rat, is the first robotic device whose movements are controlled by a network of cultured neuron cells.

Steve Potter and his research team in the Laboratory for Neuroengineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology are studying the basics of learning, memory, and information processing using neural networks in vitro. Their goal is to create computing systems that perform more like the human brain.

Potter, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, presented his most recent findings last month during the Third International Conference on Substrate-Integrated Microelectrodes in Texas.

As the lead researcher on a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Potter is connecting laboratory cultures containing living neurons to computers in order to create a simulated animal, which he describes as a "neurally-controlled animat."

"We call it the 'Hybrot' because it is a hybrid of living and robotic components," he said. "We hope to learn how living neural networks may be applied to the artificial computing systems of tomorrow. We also hope that our findings may help cases in which learning, memory, and information processing go awry in humans."

The team uses networks of cultured rodent brain cells as the Hybrot's brain, and has essentially given the cultured neural networks a body in the form of a mobile robot. Potter's group hopes the research will lead to advanced computer systems that could some day assist in situations where humans have lost motor control, memory or information processing abilities. The neural interfacing techniques they are developing could be used with prosthetic limbs directly controlled by the brain. Advances in neural control and information processing theory could have application, for example, in cars that drive themselves or new types of computing
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Contact: Larry Bowie
larry.bowie@icpa.gatech.edu
404-894-6016
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
25-Apr-2003


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