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Lamprey cyborg sees the light and responds

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4:15pm, June 18, 2004

The $6-million eel it ain't. But researchers who have taken the unprecedented step of connecting a brain, in this case a sea lamprey's brain, to a small mobile robot say they've got a roving fishbot that may someday lead to better prosthetic devices for humans.

In the meantime, the two-wheeled robot that scoots about the lab bench in response to light may help scientists better understand how an animal's nervous system and a machine can communicate with each other.

Led by Sandro Mussa-Ivaldi, a computational neurobiologist at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, the researchers described their findings this week at the 30th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans.

"I'm very impressed with this work," says Stephen P. DeWeerth, a biomedical engineer at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. "It combines the realism of biology with the controllability of electronics."

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