When President Obama recently complained, that although "we can identify galaxies light years away, study particles smaller than an atom ... we still haven't unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears" - he called on scientists to unravel the trillions of neural connections inside our brains that make our minds work.
Some researchers are already doing that - trying to understand the brain by starting to build one. At Reading University, at the newly constructed Brain Embodiment Laboratory, researchers plan to connect cultures of living human neurons to robots - to give meaning to their neural activity. At Georgia Tech, Atlanta, neuroengineer Steve Potter, agrees that cultured neurons not connected to the outside world suffer sensory deprivation. His neural arrays descend into spasms of epileptic activity when left alone. When plugged in, they can control machines across the planet.
"I believe these cultures are half-way to having a mind," says Potte