Brain scientists have built a robot that can find and record information from individual neurons in the living brains of mice.
Yes, robots are becoming real-world brain scientists.
In the future, these same robots could be studying how humans think and even deliver targeted drugs to the brain – to treat disorders such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, autism or epilepsy.
The robotic procedure automates the well-known, albeit time consuming, difficult and mind-numbing, task for human neuroscientists known as whole-cell patch clamping.
The technique involves bringing a tiny, hollow glass pipette in contact with the cell membrane of a neuron, then opening up a small pore in the membrane to record the electrical activity within the cell, explains MIT.
The skill took graduate student Suhasa Kodandaramaiah four months to learn.
“When I got reasonably good at it, I could sense that even though it is an art form, it can be reduced to a set of stereotyped tasks and decisions that could be executed by a robot,” he said in a news release.
And so, that’s what he and his colleagues did – building a robotic arm that lowers a glass pipette into an anesthetized mouse with more superior precision and speed than humans...