Architecture for Neuronal Cell Control of a Mobile Robot

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It is usually expected that the intelligent controlling mechanism of a robot is a computer system. Research is however now ongoing in which biological neural networks are being cultured and trained to act as the brain of an interactive real world robot – thereby either completely replacing or operating in a cooperative fashion with a computer system. Studying such neural systems can give a distinct insight into biological neural structures and therefore such research has immediate medical implications. In particular, the use of rodent primary dissociated cultured neuronal networks for the control of mobile ‘animats’ (artificial animals, a contraction of animal and materials) is a novel approach to discovering the computational capabilities of networks of biological neurones. A dissociated culture of this nature requires appropriate embodiment in some form, to enable appropriate development in a controlled environment within which appropriate stimuli may be received via sensory data but ultimate influence over motor actions retained. The principal aims of the present research are to assess the computational and learning capacity of dissociated cultured neuronal networks with a view to advancing network level processing of artificial neural networks. This will be approached by the creation of an artificial hybrid system (animat) involving closed loop control of a mobile robot by a dissociated culture of rat neurons. This ‘closed loop’ interaction with the environment through both sensing and effecting will enable investigation of its learning capacity This paper details the components of the overall animat closed loop system and reports on the evaluation of the results from the experiments being carried out with regard to robot behaviour.