Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published November 2001 | Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

The Neurally Controlled Animat: Biological Brains Acting with Simulated Bodies


The brain is perhaps the most advanced and robust computation system known. We are creating a method to study how information is processed and encoded in living cultured neuronal networks by interfacing them to a computer-generated animal, the Neurally-Controlled Animat, within a virtual world. Cortical neurons from rats are dissociated and cultured on a surface containing a grid of electrodes (multi-electrode arrays, or MEAs) capable of both recording and stimulating neural activity. Distributed patterns of neural activity are used to control the behavior of the Animat in a simulated environment. The computer acts as its sensory system providing electrical feedback to the network about the Animat's movement within its environment. Changes in the Animat's behavior due to interaction with its surroundings are studied in concert with the biological processes (e.g., neural plasticity) that produced those changes, to understand how information is processed and encoded within a living neural network. Thus, we have created a hybrid real-time processing engine and control system that consists of living, electronic, and simulated components. Eventually this approach may be applied to controlling robotic devices, or lead to better real-time silicon-based information processing and control algorithms that are fault tolerant and can repair themselves.

Additional Information

© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. We thank C. Michael Atkin, Gray Rybka, and Samuel Thompson for early programming on the Animat and neural interface and MultiChannel Systems (http://www.multichannelsystems.com) for their gracious technical support; Sami Barghshoon and Sheri McKinney for help with cell culture; Jerome Pine and Scott E. Fraser for support, advice, and infrastructure; and Mary Flowers, Shannan Boss, and Vanna Santoro for ordering and lab management. This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, RO1 NS38628 (SMP) and by the Burroughs-Wellcome/Caltech Computational Molecular Biology fund (DAW).

Attached Files

Accepted Version - nihms48715.pdf


Files (789.3 kB)
Name Size Download all
789.3 kB Preview Download

Additional details

August 21, 2023
October 23, 2023