Slawomir Nasuto from University of Reading and a Research Officer of AISB Committee has recently participated in the BBC4 Frontiers programme Build Me a Brain. Different teams around the world including researchers from Reading grow cultures of biological neurons in dishes allowing for communication with neurons by sending to and from tiny electric potential fluctuations, the lingua franca of the nervous system, via the array of electrodes in the bottom of the dish. Connecting the electrodes to the robotic device and letting the robots roam around while the resultant signals from its sensors impinge on cultures as stimulus and the resulting activity patterns feeding into the robot actuators enables study of the role of embodiment on ability of networks to process complex information. Ultimately, such hybrid devices may shed light on the properties of the nervous system related to cognitive processing and its interaction with body and environment producing complex behaviours. Animats, as they are sometimes called, also force the researchers to face directly the most fundamental philosophical questions about the nature of cognition and mind. The programme will be repeated on BBC World News in July.
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