Neurosurgery of Explosive Detecting Locusts via a Novel Automated Robotic Manipulator

Jason Christal and Anton Salem

Under the supervision of Professor Shantannu Chakrabartty

Cyborg insects, such as locusts, are promising for military applications such as bomb detection. Brain activity can be monitored and potentially controlled through the insertion of a micro-electrode into the brain that is connected to an external processing chip. Current techniques utilized to insert the micro-electrode have room for improvement in order to bolster both surgical speed and accuracy. We propose a novel robotic micro-manipulator that can be controlled by a user to insert the electrode into the antennal lobe of a locust brain. The micro-manipulator was able to achieve minimum movement sizes of roughly 10 microns. Additionally, the micro-manipulator features closed-loop control.  This micro-manipulator lays the foundation for future automation of the electrode insertion surgical procedure.


Cyborg Locust

Professors at Washington University in St. Louis are using modified locusts for bomb detection. Electrodes that connect to an external processor chip are inserted into the brain of the locust in order to partially control the locust’s olfactory nerve system. A large number of cyborg locusts must be produced in order to perform preliminary testing for the development of the olfactory detection system. The current method of producing cyborg locusts features a manual surgery process that is both time intensive and costly. The automation of this procedure would enable for a more efficient and cost effective manner of producing a large number of cyborg locusts. In addition, it would enable researchers to better use their time and energy toward the development of the technology rather than the performance of manual surgeries.

Robotic Manipulator

The creation of a robotic electrode inserter for the automation of the process to insert electrodes into the brain of the locust would alleviate the presented problem. The electrode insertion process is very delicate and is subject to a large amount of human error that jeopardizes the entire surgical procedure and the life of the locust. A robotic manipulator performing this aspect of the surgery would cut down the necessary time and reduce the amount of human interaction with the surgery.