Sea slugs have long been used to study brain models especially in research concerned with memory and learning. Now, researchers have built an artificial brain based on that of a sea slug.
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The computer model was taught to live like a sea slug, with such characteristic’s scientists decided to add ‘homeostatic plasticity’ and then exposed its artificial brain to an intoxicating drug. What happened next? The computer was addicted.
The research idea stemmed from a long-term project concerned with developing a working model for the brain.
"By watching how this brain makes sense of its environment, we expect to learn more about how real-world brains work," said Rhanor Gillette, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor emeritus of molecular and integrative physiology who led the research. "We also think our model will make a great educational tool."
Findings were published in Scientific Reports and describes how scientists named their model ‘ASIMOV’— named after the famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov who may have been the first to discuss robotic ethics.
"If it's very intoxicated by the drug, what usually happens in our simulation is that it just ignores all the other options -- for example, the option to eat," adds postdoctoral researcher and lead author Ekaterina Gribkova who built the computer model. "It ends up in this malnourished and intoxicated state. But if it goes into withdrawal because it can't find the drug, it loses its selectivity for different kinds of prey. It just eats everything in sight.
"We wanted to actually recreate addiction in this organism," she said. "And this is the simplest way we could do it."
"We expect that behavioral complexity in animals probably evolved from very simple beginnings like this, so we're trying to recreate that in a very evolutionarily plausible way," Gillette said.