Computers Powered By Brain Cells

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Researchers from John Hopkins University together with Dr. Brett Kagan, chief scientist at Cortical Labs in Melbourne, have recently led the development of the DishBrain project, in which human cells in a petri dish learnt to play Pong.

The team claims that biological computers could surpass today’s electronic computers for certain applications while using a small fraction of the electricity required by today’s computers and server farms.

In their research paper, the researchers outline their plan for “organoid intelligence,” or OI, with the brain organoids grown in cell-culture. Although brain organoids aren’t “mini brains,” they share key aspects of brain function and structure. Organoids would need to be dramatically expanded from around 50,000 cells currently.

“For OI, we would need to increase this number to 10 million,” says senior author Prof Thomas Hartung of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“We have shown we can interact with living biological neurons in such a way that compels them to modify their activity, leading to something that resembles intelligence,” says Dr. Brett Kagan of the relatively simple Pong-playing DishBrain. “Working with the team of amazing people assembled by Professor Hartung and colleagues for this Organoid Intelligence collaboration, Cortical Labs is now trying to replicate that work with brain organoids.”