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.

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.

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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