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Artificial Life

Winter-Spring 2005, Vol. 11, No. 1-2, Pages 63-77
(doi: 10.1162/1064546053278946)
© 2005 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Brain-Based Devices for the Study of Nervous Systems and the Development of Intelligent Machines
Article PDF (484.29 KB)

The simultaneous study of brain function at all levels of organization is difficult to undertake with current experimental tools. Present day electrophysiology only allows the recording of at most hundreds of neurons while an animal is performing a behavioral task. Because of this limitation and the sheer complexity of the nervous system, computational modeling has become essential in developing theories of brain function. Accordingly, our group has constructed a series of brain-based devices (BBDs), that is, physical devices with simulated nervous systems that guide behavior, to serve as a heuristic for testing theories of brain function. Unlike animal models, BBDs permit analysis of activity at all levels of the nervous system as the device behaves in its environment. Although the principal focus of developing BBDs has been to test theories of brain function, this type of modeling may also provide a basis for robotic design and practical applications.