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Researcher (Virginia Tech) Develops Model for Robots with Bacterial Brains

A Virginia tech scientist used a mathematical model to demonstrate that bacteria can control the behaviour of an inanimate device like a robot.

Forget the Vulcan mind-meld of a star Trek generation. “As far as mind control techniques go, bacteria is the next frontier”

Warren Ruder, an assistant professor of biological systems engineering in both College of Agriculture and Life Science and the College of Engineering said “we were trying to find out from the mathematical model if we could build a living microbiome on a non-living host and control the host through the microbiome”

We found out that robots may indeed be able to function with bacterial brain, he said. At the moment using miniature fluorescent microscopes, Ruder is building a real-world robot that will have the ability to read bacterial gene expression level. This will have a far reaching implications in ecology, biology and robotics.

The findings also added to the ever-growing body of research about bacteria in the human body that are thought to regulate health and mood. Especially, the theory that bacteria also affects behaviour.

This study was inspired by real-world experiments where the mating behaviour of fruit fies was manipulated using bacteria as well as mice that exhibited signs of lower stress when implanted with probiotics.

This model also revealed higher order functions in a surprising way. For instance, as the bacteria were directing the robot toward more food, the robot paused for a while before quickly making the run for it. This is a classic predatory behaviour of higher order in animals that stalk prey.

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