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Impressive artificial neurons created

Thursday December 5th, 2019

Scientists are making progress on artificial neurons that are capable of the same electrical activity as biological neurons, it has been announced.

Professor Alain Nogaret of the University of Bath, UK, led the work. He says: "Until now neurons have been like black boxes, but we have managed to open the black box and peer inside.

“Our work is paradigm changing because it provides a robust method to reproduce the electrical properties of real neurons in minute detail.”

The artificial neurons require only 140 nanoWatts of power - a billionth the power requirement of a microprocessor, which other attempts to make synthetic neurons have used.

The team believe this makes their well suited for bio-electronic implants to treat chronic diseases.

"For example,” says Professor Nogaret, “we're developing smart pacemakers that won't just stimulate the heart to pump at a steady rate but use these neurons to respond in real time to demands placed on the heart - which is what happens naturally in a healthy heart.”

The neurons could also be used in the treatment of a range of neuronal degenerative diseases. It was described in Nature Communications yesterday (3 December).

"Our approach combines several breakthroughs,” Professor Nogaret explains. “We can very accurately estimate the precise parameters that control any neurons behaviour with high certainty.

“We have created physical models of the hardware and demonstrated its ability to successfully mimic the behaviour of real living neurons. Our third breakthrough is the versatility of our model which allows for the inclusion of different types and functions of a range of complex mammalian neurons."

Co-author Professor Giacomo Indiveri, of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, added: "This work opens new horizons for neuromorphic chip design thanks to its unique approach to identifying crucial analog circuit parameters."

Abu-Hassan, K. et al. Optimal solid state neurons. Nature Communications 3 December 2019; doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-13177-3

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-13177-3

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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