Lab-grown neurons learn to play pong in just five minutes


Australian scientists have managed to teach brain cells grown in a Petri dish (cylindrical plastic or glass containers used for the growth of laboratory cell cultures) to play Pong. Pong is a video game from the 70s with extremely simplified graphics, created to simulate the game of ping-pong.


Using a “neural network system” of neurons and electrodes, scientists at bio startup Cortical Labs have combined organic tissue and technology, resulting in a sensory output that could change the way we view thinking, learning, and thinking. ‘intelligence.

Commentary of a match

Definitely not an avant-garde game, but if we think that what we see in the video is the action controlled by artificial cells grown in a capsule, surely the game of Pong also acquires a certain charm.

The cells grown in the laboratory by the scientists, excised from mice, were connected with a network of microelectrodes . Researchers have managed to “teach” neurons to respond to stimuli (the ball in motion) by sending impulses to the microelectrodes to move the racket.


In just five minutes, they could see these cells ‘learn’ to react to electrical stimuli from microelectrodes placed on different sides of a petri dish, mirroring the movement of the ball. Brain cells reacted with signals that prompted the racket to meet the ball, and so a real game of Pong was played.


It is not the first time that experiments of this type have been carried out, but it is the first time that a video has been made and put on youtube that allows us to watch a match between artificially grown cells.

The findings could have a profound effect not only on artificial intelligence but also on the medical treatment of the brain. “We’ve shown that we can interact with living biological neurons in a way that forces them to change their activity, leading to something resembling intelligence,” said Brett Kagan, a neuroscientist at Cortical Labs. Not only that, as explained by another Cortical Lab scientist, Brett Kagan: using electrical stimuli, the brain cells were able to regulate their sensory production and, consequently, to learn to play the game of pong better and to increase reaction times for better results.

  • In vitro neurons learn and exhibit sentience when embodied in a simulated game-world. (


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