Disembodied human brain cells learn Pong faster than AI


Researchers have placed networks of neurons in dishes, put them in a simple version of The Matrix, and found that they can learn Pong faster than an AI.

As reported by New scientist, Researchers at Cortical laboratories stated that they grew groups of human neurons into organoid mini-brains (a process also used to attach Neanderthal brain cells to crab robots) and placed them on microelectrode interfaces. These interfaces pulsate with electricity that is used to effectively convince the mini-brains that they are the paddles in a single player pong game.

A visualization of the mini-brains playing pong.  (Photo credit: New Scientist / Cortical Labs)

A visualization of the mini-brains playing pong. (Photo credit: New Scientist / Cortical Labs)

“We often refer to them as living in the Matrix,” said Chief Scientific Officer Brett Kagan. In this virtual game world, the neurons can start moving these paddles to prevent Pong’s relentlessly bouncing ball from flying past them.

It is impressive how quickly they can learn this. Cortical Labs says that it would generally take an AI about 90 minutes to learn what to do in this situation where the mini-brain seems to learn in just 5. However, an AI would be much, much better at the task after learning it. You can see a game in action on YouTube.

Cortical Labs hopes to use studies like this one to combine living neurons with traditional computing so that computers can “solve problems in unfamiliar situations” that could be used to solve autonomous robotic problems.

Joe Skrebels is Executive Editor of News at IGN. Follow him further Twitter. Do you have a tip for us? Would you like to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to newstipps@ign.com.





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