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Groundbreaking Research Receives $600,000 Grant to Merge Human Brain Cells with AI

Monash University and Cortical Labs Lead Research Effort Creating Programmable Biological Computing Platforms


Dishbrain receives $600k grant to merge brain cells with AI.
Image source: Shutterstock

MELBOURNE – In a major stride towards merging human brain cells with artificial intelligence, a research project spearheaded by Monash University and Cortical Labs has secured a substantial $600,000 grant from the Office of National Intelligence (ONI). This innovative research aims to harness the power of synthetic biology and artificial intelligence, creating programmable biological computing platforms.


Human Brain Cells with AI


The breakthrough discovery that set the stage for this ambitious project is the creation of "DishBrain" - a remarkable feat by the research team, where brain cells have demonstrated the ability to play the vintage video game Pong. Led by Associate Professor Adeel Razi from the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University, the team has leveraged hundreds of thousands of live, lab-grown brain cells. These cells are capable of learning various tasks, including playing Pong, with the help of a multi-electrode array that provides feedback based on electrical activity, simulating the interaction of a "paddle" hitting a "ball."


The exciting findings of the research were recently published in the prestigious science magazine Neuron, indicating that synthetic biological intelligence, once considered the realm of science fiction, may soon become a reality. This groundbreaking development could pave the way for a new era in machine intelligence - a type of AI that learns continuously throughout its lifetime.


Main Objectives


One of the main objectives of this research is to address the limitations of current AI systems, notably the issue of "catastrophic forgetting." Unlike human brains, which excel in lifelong learning, conventional AI often struggles with retaining information from previous tasks when attempting new ones. By understanding the biological mechanisms of ongoing learning through DishBrain, the research team seeks to develop AI systems replicating biological neural networks' learning capacity.


Associate Professor Razi expressed his gratitude for the support from ONI and the Department of Defence National Security Science and Technology Centre. He emphasized that the development of AI with lifelong learning capabilities is crucial for enhancing machine learning technology across various domains, such as self-driving cars, autonomous drones, and delivery robots. Furthermore, this cutting-edge technology may eventually surpass the performance of existing silicon-based hardware, offering Australia a significant strategic advantage in multiple fields, including planning, robotics, advanced automation, brain-machine interfaces, and drug discovery.


Potential Implications


The research project's potential implications have not gone unnoticed, as AI leaders and organizations call on the government to recognize the possible "catastrophic or existential risks from AI." Australians For AI Safety, an organization of academics and industry experts, has penned a letter to Industry, Science, and Technology Minister Ed Husic, urging the government to consider the societal impact of advancements in AI technology.


This transformative research marks a crucial step towards bridging the gap between biological intelligence and artificial intelligence, bringing us closer to a future where the melding of these fields could revolutionize technology and enhance our understanding of intelligence. As the project gains momentum, the world eagerly anticipates the day when AI and human brain cells synergize to unlock unprecedented possibilities.

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