Researchers has developed the artificial brain cells

The chip in the center (the small green square) contains 120 artificial neurons. | University of Bath

The field of electronic circuits inspired by the brain has made a big leap forward. For the first time ever, researchers have been able to decode the complex behaviors of brain cells in order to recreate them in tiny computer chips. They demonstrated that a piece of silicon could behave exactly like a biological neuron.

These tiny neurons may well change the way we design and build medical devices because they reproduce healthy biological activity, but only require one billionth of the energy needed by microprocessors.

It should be known that neurons behave in the same way as the electrical circuits of the body, but their behavior is less predictable, especially as regards the analysis of the relationship between their electrical input and output pulses. But these new artificial brain cells successfully mimic the behavior of rat neurons in two specific regions of the brain.

Professor Alain Nogaret (left) and research associate Kamal Abu Hassan (right) in the University of Bath laboratory. Credits: University of Bath

"Until now, the neurons looked like black boxes, but we managed to open them and examine the inside, " said Bath physicist Alain Nogaret. "  Our work is changing paradigms because it provides a robust method for reproducing the electrical properties of real neurons in great detail,  " he added.

For scientists, the ultimate goal is to use these neurons to design medical devices that are better adapted to patient needs, such as a smarter pacemaker, able to respond to new stressors and the demands of the person's heart. which essentially consists in improving the devices to better adapt them to the body.

Julian Paton, a physiologist at the Universities of Auckland and Bristol, said in his press release that recreating a biological activity was an interesting challenge because it "would offer tremendous opportunities for smarter medical devices that lead to personalized medicine approaches. for a range of diseases and disabilities.

In their work published in Nature Communications (see link below), researchers accurately reproduced the complete dynamics of hippocampal neurons and rat respiratory neurons.


Optimal solid state neurons

Kamal Abu-Hassan, Joseph D. Taylor, Paul G. Morris, Elisa Donati, Zuner A. Bortolotto, Giacomo Indiveri, Julian F. R. Paton & Alain

Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 5309 (2019)

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