The newest jet jockeys

University of Florida scientists have grown rat brain cells in a petri dish and taught them to fly a fighter plane, according to school officials.

The “”brain,”” grown from 25,000 neural cells extracted from a single embryo, has been taught to fly an F-22 jet simulator, they claim.

“”When we first hooked it up, the plane ‘crashed’ all the time,”” said Dr. Thomas DeMarse, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, “”but over time, the neural network slowly adapts as the brain learns to control the pitch and roll of the aircraft. After a while, it produces a nice straight and level trajectory.””

The researchers are studying how the brain processes and transfers information, something many instructors have wondered about throughout the first century of flight.

Scientists hope their research will lead to computers with organic components, allowing more varied means of solving problems. One potential application is to install living computers in unmanned aircraft for missions too dangerous for humans.

Although fighter jocks may claim that a few rat brain cells aren’t up to the job, old military pilot instructors are nodding sagely.

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