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Lab grown brain cells can play pong

by on13 October 2022

What is your excuse?

Boffins have grown brain cells in a lab that have learned to play the 1970s tennis-like video game, Pong.

Writing in the journal Neuron (which we get for the spot the brain cell competition), Dr Brett Kagan, of the company Cortical Labs, claims to have created the first ''sentient'' lab-grown brain in a dish.

Kagan said: "We could find no better term to describe the device. It can take in information from an external source, process it and then respond to it in real time."

Mini-brains were first produced in 2013, to study microcephaly, a genetic disorder where the brain is too small, and have since been used for research into brain development.

But this is the first time they have been plugged into, and interacted with, an external environment, in this case, a video game.

The boffins grew human brain cells grown from stem cells and some from mouse embryos to a collection of 800,000 connected this mini-brain to the video game via electrodes revealing which side the ball was on and how far from the paddle. The cells produced electrical activity of their own and expended less energy as the game continued.

But when the ball passed a paddle and the game restarted with the ball at a random point, they expended more recalibrating to a new unpredictable situation.

The mini-brain learned to play in five minutes.


Last modified on 13 October 2022
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