Tech UPTechnologyThey grow human cells in the laboratory capable of...

They grow human cells in the laboratory capable of playing Pong


Pong is a classic table tennis-themed video game, which was first released in 1972 and was a huge commercial success at the time. Now, a team of scientists has taught a group of neurons grown in the laboratory to play this video game. A quite interesting feat that the researchers expose in their study published in the journal Neuron.


Cells that play Pong

Pong was an arcade game in which two players use paddles to hit a ball back and forth, making a “pong” noise on contact, hence the name.

Researchers at Melbourne-based startup Cortical Labs , alongside scientists from universities including Monash University, the University of Melbourne and University College London, used human cells derived from stem cells and mouse cells derived from embryonic cells. have shown, for the first time, that 800,000 brain cells can perform goal-directed tasks, in this case playing the classic video game Pong. The findings suggest that even brain cells in a Petri dish may exhibit inherent intelligence.

“This new ability to teach cell cultures to perform a task in which they exhibit sensitivity, by controlling the paddle to return the ball through sensing, opens up new possibilities for discovery that will have far-reaching consequences for the technology, the health and society”, comments Adeel Razi, co-author of the study. “We know that our brains have the evolutionary advantage of being tuned for hundreds of millions of years to survive. Now, it seems that we have at our fingertips where we can harness this incredibly powerful and cheap biological intelligence .”

Using human stem cell-derived cells and mouse embryonic-derived cells placed in what they dubbed “DishBrain,” a multi-electrode array that can both detect and stimulate cellular activity, in just five minutes the cells began to “learn ” how to play the simulated game using a shared “language” of electrical activity.

Interestingly, DishBrain naturally learned to play Pong out of an apparent tendency to act on its environment in ways that made it more predictable and less random. In other words, this system behaved much more like a real living brain than an artificial intelligence normally does.

Great potential for blending living tissue with silicon technology

Using electrical probes that recorded ‘spikes’, the researchers monitored the neuron’s activity and responses to this feedback. the spikes grew stronger when a neuron moved its paddle and hit the ball. And when the neurons failed, his style of play was criticized by software.

This is the first synthetic biological intelligence experiment to show that neurons can adjust their activity to perform a specific task and, when given feedback, can learn to perform that task better.

“We’ve shown that we can interact with living biological neurons in a way that forces them to modify their activity, leading to something akin to intelligence,” explains neuroscientist Brett Kagan of Cortical Labs.

The team will now try to see what happens when DishBrain is affected by drugs and alcohol. And, in the future, the researchers hope the findings could pave the way for treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Referencia: In vitro neurons learn and exhibit sentience when embodied in a simulated game-world

Brett J. Kagan 
Andy C. Kitchen
Nhi T. Tran
Ben Rollo
Adeel Razi
Karl J. Friston
Open Access Published: October 12, 2022 Neuron DOI:

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