Innovations Scientists Create 'Living Computer' Using Mouse Brain Cells

Scientists in the United States have created a living computer using over 80,000 mouse stem cells, paving the way for more energy-efficient devices through the combination of meat and silicon. Reservoir computing, a technique that matches neurons made from living cells with conventional computer chips used to read the data they produce, could potentially reduce the time and energy needed to train traditional neural networks.

How it Works
Researchers at the University of Illinois built a computer out of tens of thousands of living mouse brain cells, which can recognize patterns of light and electricity. The team placed the computer, made of 80,000 reprogrammed mouse stem cells, between optical fibers on a grid of electrodes. The cells were kept alive in an incubator, and the team trained the mouse brain-computer by flashing ten different patterns of electrical pulses repeatedly for an hour. The team then recorded and analyzed the signals sent by the neurons after the computer had rested for 30 minutes.

Initially, the F1 score of the mouse brain-computer wasn't very high due to random spikes of electricity from the neurons. However, Andrew Dou and his team at the University of Illinois found a combination of chemicals and electronic impulses that could calm such randomness. The final result was a score of 0.98 on its best run, which is measured on a scale of 0 to 1, with 1 being perfect recognition of patterns.

Potential Applications
One of the more realistic applications of this technology is a robot that could sense its environment and process data simultaneously. In the future, reservoir computing could be used to create more energy-efficient devices that can also maintain continued functionality even if parts are damaged or break down. According to the New Scientist, living cells for computing could make reservoir computing devices more power-efficient, acting as a backup for components if they fail.

Biohybrid Tech
This isn't the first time mouse cells have been used to power wild biohybrid tech. In January, scientists revealed that they made a tiny robot walk using mouse muscles and 3D printing to build a soft scaffold and got it to navigate a tiny maze.

As the team continues to create larger living computers, they are hoping that the computer will start to exhibit behavior they didn't input or train the neural network for. However, the team has not yet reached the level of performance exhibited by traditional neural networks.

Although this technology is impressive and has a lot of potential, it's important to approach it with caution. As we move closer to creating more energy-efficient devices, it's important to consider the implications of merging meat and silicon. As the line between human and machine blurs, it's important to remember that technology is a tool that should serve humanity, not the other way around.

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