The rapid development of robotics and computer technology opens up new opportunities in many areas of human activity, including medicine. If we analyse the chronology of reports about new developments of robots, we can see that in the period 2005-2010 there was a sharp jump in reports of projects to create medical robots in most of the leading countries of the world. A future in which hospitals have robots and numerous engineers to support them seemed more and more real. According to the apt expression of the American engineer D. Engelberger, who received the title of "the father of robotics", hospitals are an ideal place for the use of robots. Robots are not yet capable of completely replacing humans in the near future, especially in medicine, but robots can already be a courier within the hospital, interview and collect complaints from patients, and help them to move around the clinic today. Mannequin robots, transport robots, informant robots - this is, in fact, a reality. Accordingly, clinics must be prepared for the mass appearance of robots, must understand their functionality, and must have specialists on robotics inside staff. Therefore, one of the tasks that our Laboratory sets for itself is the task of studying the potential and efficiency of using robots in MONIKI and in practical healthcare in the Moscow region as a whole. On this topic it is possible to familiarize with our first literary review abstract here (Russian journal "Technologii zjivyh sistem", v.7, No. 4, 2010. - pp. 3-14). Based on the review, the Laboratory has chosen the main direction for its own research - autonomous mobile service medical robots (SMRs). Such robots are minimally mechanistic (unlike surgical robots, for example), but must be as "intelligent" as possible, which opens up scope for research in the field of "mental abilities" of robots. This is the most interesting for us and resonates with the tasks of neurophysics, neurophysiology, cognitive experimental studies with animals, etc.
At the time of the creation of our laboratory, there was no specialized scientific and engineering theory of SMRs. That's why, during the period of 2012-2016 within the RFBR Projects No.12-08-00415a and 14-08-001127а our laboratory has carried out the fundamental theoretical research on the development of scientific and engineering bases of SMRs functioning in clinics. The first expert assessment of the perspective role functions of SMRs in clinics was received on the basis of which the generalized concept of functioning of SMRs in clinics was formulated. The thesis about the existence of a limited set of elementary algorithms composing any situational behavior of SMRs was put forward, theoretically reasoned and checked experimentally. The paradigm of the object-oriented description of habitat of SMRs in clinics was formulated and proved. The set of variables of habitat in clinics was investigated. The thesis about defining role of sense organs of the robot in formation of a set of variables of habitat as well as a set of variables of the internal environment of the robot was formulated. The formal technical description of assignment objective functions, self-preservation and support objective functions of SMRs was developed. The hierarchy was investigated and priorities of the objective functions of SMRs were proved. The set of significant and insignificant variables for the objective functions of SMRs was investigated. The generalized block-diagram of the considered SMRs was developed and the general approach to the methodology and stages of their design were formulated. The first version of the list of specialized medico-technical requirements to SMRs was developed and proved. The executed research on the fundamental statement and systemic coverage of a problem of creation of scientific and engineering bases of the theory of SMRs advances similar approaches of other authors, as in Russia, and abroad. Several parts of our preliminary results of RFBR projects were reported in 2012 at the V-th Troitsk Conference on medical physics ("TCMP-5") and at the X-th Scientific Conference «Physics and Radioelectronics in medicine and ecology» ("PREME’2012"), in a frame of 4-th International Conference on Biomedical Engineering and Bio-technology (ICBEB'2015) in 2015 in China, in 9th International Joint Conference on Biomedical Engineering Systems and Technologies (BIOSTEC 2016). See the section of our publications. Full required technical and intellectual abilities for autonomous mobile service medical robots, which was formulated during the Projects, was published in 2018 in "Advances in Robotics Research" (see here). Some of the materials have not yet been published (stored for the future).
On the other hand, modern availability and development of methods of computer simulations, the last successes in neurobiology in studying of topography of neural communications and neurotransmissions in alive organisms, all of these allow us to tell most seriously about possibility of formulating of systemic problems of neurobiology (or, already, more precisely - of neurobiophysics) on studying of biophysical mechanisms of the higher nervous activity and cogitative work of the human's and animals' brain. In applications to medical problems, accordingly, it concerns the biophysical mechanisms of infringements of normal work and the reasons of occurrence of diseases of a brain of the person and animals. Today, actually, there is not an effective neurophysiologic theory of cogitative work of our brain. Therefore, the research on searching of ways of creation of such a theory are an actual and perspective problem of a fundamental science. This problem is also today in a sight of our Laboratory. In the framework of the RFBR grant No.14-08-001127a since 2014 up to 2016, the study was carried out on the theoretical foundations of the formation of an internal model of the world of service medical robots. A large-scale analytical review of modern neuroscience data has led to several important conclusions regarding the general principles of control in living systems and on the rational activity of the brain. You can familiarize yourself with this our review here. One of the main and fundamental conclusions from this research was the conclusion about a potential infinite variety of possible forms of "reasonable" technical systems. Reasoning, rational activity, intelligence - all is learning products, piece products, individual products, arising in the course of the daily activity of the individuals, which as a whole can be characterized by the words "individual's life"; and it does not matter whether this individual is biological or not. This uniquely determines the possible infinite variety of different forms of the mind and intellect (see here). Another important conclusion was that not only the nervous system controls a living organism. In parallel and inseparably with it (in tandem), the control is carried out by the endocrine system of the body, which is generally called neuroendocrine control today. Apparently, it is impossible to create a control system for a technical system at a level comparable in its functionality to people and animals only on the principle of neural networks.
Also, on this basis, it turned out to be possible to formulate and substantiate the reality of creating technical systems with artificial consciousness, to understand the basic principles of the possible functioning of artificial consciousness in a technical system (for a popular science presentation on this see here). Most likely, any robot in order to achieve a human functionality in terms of intellectual abilities must have self-awareness. Elements of consciousness appear already in animals at the level of insects, arthropods. All mammals and birds (possibly all vertebrates) have a full-fledged consciousness. Therefore, it is possible that consciousness is a primary phenomenon, and intellectual abilities are secondary ones. Detailed report on this topic "Is artificial (or natural?) consciousness possible in a technical intellectual system?" head of the laboratory, doctor of technical sciences Dmitry Rogatkin made at the beginning of 2022 at the seminar of the Russian Association of Artificial Intelligence (RAAI). A video recording of both the report and a discussion on the report is published on the RAAI website (see here). Currently, these studies are ongoing and are being prepared for publication in journals.