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Part Moth, Part Machine: Cyborgs Are on the Move

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Researchers are developing methods to produce complex behavior from robots by tapping into the nervous system of living organisms and using algorithms that already exist in nature. For example, Tokyo Institute of Technology researchers have developed a cyborg moth that uses chemical plume tracking to locate the source of certain pheromones.

The researchers immobilized a moth on a small wheeled robot and placed two recording electrodes into nerves running down its neck to monitor commands the moth uses to steer. By rerouting these signals to motors in the robot, the researchers found that they could emulate the moth's plume-tracking behavior.

Researchers also hope to recreate biological circuits in silicon, says Northwestern University's Ferdinando Mussa-Ivaldi. Scientists have made progress toward this goal with central pattern generators (CPGs), which are a type of behavioral circuit in the human brain and spine that carry out routine tasks with little or no conscious input, such as walking or grasping an object. Johns Hopkins University's Ralph Etienne-Cummings has used recordings of CPGs taken from a lamprey to generate walking motions in a pair of robotic legs.

From New Scientist
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