Scientists at the biological startup Cortical Labs have developed the culture of human brain cells in laboratory conditions and taught them the game at Pong. Researchers argue that for the first time they have been able to demonstrate that "mini brain" can be taught to perform specific tasks.
A culture of 800,000 cells received the name DishBrain, which was connected to the system in which the Pong computer game was launched. The electrical impulses sent to the neurons indicated the position of the ball in the game, and the cell array, depending on the incoming data, moved the virtual racket up and down. When the ball hit the DishBrain racket, it received a strong feedback pulse, and when it failed, it was weak and had an accidental effect.
Scientists emphasize that culture is too primitive to be fully conscious, but its ability is sufficient to teach the game within five minutes. At the end of the 20-minute Pong game, the cell population demonstrated an improvement in skills, which, according to the authors of the study, indicates the reorganization of cells, the development of the biological array and its significant learning potential.
DishBrain will be used to study how his cognitive powers are influenced by alcohol and various drugs — scientists want to understand whether this culture can be viewed as a substitute for the human brain. It is likely that such organic fragments will eventually be useful to test the treatment of various diseases such as Alzheimer's.
In parallel, researchers at Stanford University have developed human brain tissue from stem cells and implanted them with newborn rats. These so-called brain organoids have been able to integrate with their own rodent brains, and in a few months it has been discovered that organoids have taken about a third of both hemispheres of rat brains, interacting with their own brain tissue. Such organoids can be used to study neurodegenerative diseases and test drugs to treat neuro-psychic pathologies. Scientists also want to see how organoid genetic defects will affect animal behavior.