Lab-grown mini brains ‘perilously close’ to consciousness?

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Image: AFP/Muotri Lab/UCTV

Neuroscientists at more than a hundred laboratories around the world are now cultivating small brains from human cells in glass dishes. There, they bob around in a pinkish liquid.

The lumpy blobs are more than a collection of random brain cells.

They form structures in a fashion similar to what happens during fetal development. The structures have different brain parts and organize themselves in networks. Cells fire – send off electrical signals – and thus communicate inside the pea-sized blobs.

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Some scientists are worried things might go wrong. At a major brain research conference in October, one of the topics on brain organoids was whether they could feel pain or “become conscious.”

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Could a situation arise where brains lie there and suffer in a bodyless, nightmarish state?

Elan Ohayon has developed computer models that he believes can tell us when mini-brain consciousness might arise. According to his models, research on organoids may already be “perilously close to crossing this ethical Rubicon,” the lecture introduction states.

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However, most people believe that today’s research on organoids is still well within what is ethically sound. The mini-brains differ greatly from real brains.

Read full, original post: Neuroscientists cultivate mini-versions of human brains in the lab. Could they become conscious?

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