Machine learning models like the one behind ChatGPT can do a lot, from writing simple texts to entire stories. But scientists are looking for a way to expand their capabilities through faster computing, creating a system that can be as efficient and powerful as the human brain.

In the new article published in the Frontiers journal, a large international team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) details that brain-machine technologies are the new buzzword in biocomputing and offers a roadmap for how make them a reality.

As the paper explains, organoid intelligence (OI) is an emerging field where researchers are developing biological computing using 3D cultures of human brain cells (brain organoids) and brain-machine interface technologies. These organoids share aspects of brain structure and function that play a key role in cognitive functions like learning and memory. They would essentially serve as biological hardware, and could one day be even more efficient than current computers running AI programs.

The human brain has an incredible capacity to store information: the average brain can store approximately 2,500 terabytes, the article says. Researchers envision complex three-dimensional cellular structures that will be connected to artificial intelligence and machine learning systems.

“We’re reaching the physical limits of silicon computers because we cannot pack more transistors into a tiny chip,” Thomas Hartung, a researcher at JHU and one of the study’s authors, said in a press release. “But the brain is wired completely differently. It has about 100 [billion] neurons linked through over 1015 connection points. It’s an enormous power difference compared to our current technology.”

Previously, researchers have already combined the biological and synthetic to teach brain cells to play Pong. That project involved the creation of the DishBrain system, where researchers created a brain-computer interface, providing neurons with simple electrical sensory input and feedback that allowed them to “learn” the game.

However, the new paper looks at even bigger applications than simply teaching cells to play video games. For example, brain organoids can be used in medicine. The authors write that OI research will allow the study of interpersonal neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, as well as revolutionize research in the field of drug testing.

This technology is not quite ready for tomorrow. However, the researchers position their work as a starting point for further research.