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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Brain-Based Learning that has Gone Too Far!

This is an older article but is still kinda scary. Read the full article at Brain in a Dish Flies Plane

A University of Florida scientist has created a living "brain" of cultured rat cells that now controls an F-22 fighter jet flight simulator.

Scientists say the research could lead to tiny, brain-controlled prosthetic devices and unmanned airplanes flown by living computers.

...scientists placed an electrode grid at the bottom of a glass dish and then covered the grid with rat neurons. The cells initially resembled individual grains of sand in liquid, but they soon extended microscopic lines toward each other, gradually forming a neural network — a brain — that DeMarse says is a "living computational device."

The brain can learn, just as a human brain learns, he said. When the system is first engaged, the neurons don't know how to control the airplane; they don't have any experience.

[At first the brain doesn't know how to fly the airplane] but over time,stimulations modify the network's response such that the neurons slowly (over the course of 15 minutes) learn to control the aircraft. The end result is a neural network that can fly the plane to produce relatively stable straight and level flight."

This brain-controlled plane may sound like science fiction, but it is grounded in work that has been taking place for more than a decade. A breakthrough occurred in 1993, when a team of scientists created a Hybrot, which is short for "hybrid robot."

The robot consisted of hardware, computer software, rat neurons, and incubators for those neurons. The computer, programmed to respond to the neuron impulses, controlled

Ok, so can we grow a brain to create good e-learning?


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Downes said...

This is actually pretty old - I covered it in OLDaily almost three years ago.

What's significant about the story isn't that they can grow brains in vats - that's even older news - but that small numbers of neural cells (basically, small networks) can perform advanced tasks.

It kind of puts to lie the theories of cognition that presuppose that we need some sort of advance symbol system in order to perform such cognitive tasks. Which means that language is not, as is so often asserted, central to cognition.

Anonymous said...

I'd say an eLearning application isn't really realistic, military tasks will come first...
And yes, that's scary.

Karl Kapp said...


You are right, it is old! It just caught my interest and I didn't want to loose the content so I put it into my permanent memory (my blog)

Additionally, you bring up an interesting point about the fact that this research shows that language is not prerequisite for higher levels of congnition. Interesting stuff going on.

Thanks for the comment!