$600k to put brain cells on computer chips

Cosmos Magazine


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By Cosmos

Hundreds of thousands of brain cells will be grown in a dish and trained to undertake tasks as part of a program funded by a defence grants program.

The Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, based at Monash University, was granted $600,000  by Australia’s National Intelligence and Security Discovery Research Grants Program to undertake the research.

It will collaborate with Melbourne-based startup Cortical Labs which last year developed the so-called Dishbrain – an aggregation of 800,000 mouse neurons – and taught it to play the retro electronic tennis game Pong. As reported by Cosmos at the time, the Dishbrain’s ‘intelligence’ was likened to the neural capacity of a bee.

The Turner-Cortical Labs collaboration will aim to extend this work to explore a new frontier of computing technology, potentially enabling autonomous vehicles, drones, robots and devices more broadly to ‘learn’ throughout their lifetimes.

“This new technology capability in future may eventually surpass the performance of existing, purely silicon-based hardware,” says project lead Associate Professor Adeel Razi.

“The outcomes of such research would have significant implications across multiple fields such as, but not limited to, planning, robotics, advanced automation, brain-machine interfaces, and drug discovery, giving Australia a significant strategic advantage.”

Razi describes this ongoing learning as negating the risk inherent in existing artificial intelligence which is less able to adapt and retain existing skills and knowledge as new ones are learnt. Brains, in contrast, retain information over time.

It is hoped experiments with Dishbrain technology will enable the development of AI that can emulate biological neural networks, potentially as a replacement for existing silicon-based computing.

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