Posted on Mar 06, 2020, 5 p.m.
According to a report on ScienceDaily, novel nanoelectronic device research has enabled brain neurons and artificial neurons to communicate with each other over the internet in a new study that has been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
Brain function occurs due to circuits of spiking neurons which are connected together by highly complex microscopic synapses. Scientists based at the Universities of Padova and Zurich and ETH reated a hybrid neural network in which biological and artificial neurons in different parts of the world were able to communicate with each other over the internet through a hub of artificial synapses made using nanotechnology.
Rat neurons were cultivated while the artificial neurons were created on Silicon microchips, and the virtual lab was brought together via setup controlling nanoelectronic synapses developed at the University of Southampton; these synaptic devices are called memristors.
Spiking events were captured being sent over the internet from the biological neurons in Italy to Southampton and then distributed over the memristive synapses; responses were sent onward to the artificial neurons in Zurich in the form of spiking activity. The process also worked simultaneously in reverse as well from Zurich to Padova thus the artificial and biological neurons were able to communicate bidirectionally and in real time.
"One of the biggest challenges in conducting research of this kind and at this level has been integrating such distinct cutting edge technologies and specialist expertise that are not typically found under one roof. By creating a virtual lab we have been able to achieve this,” said Themis Prodromakis, Professor of Nanotechnology and Director of the Centre for Electronics Frontiers at the University of Southampton.
"We are very excited with this new development. On one side it sets the basis for a novel scenario that was never encountered during natural evolution, where biological and artificial neurons are linked together and communicate across global networks; laying the foundations for the Internet of Neuro-electronics. On the other hand, it brings new prospects to neuroprosthetic technologies, paving the way towards research into replacing dysfunctional parts of the brain with AI chips,” added Prof Prodromakis.
This research is expected to inspire an interest in a variety of scientific disciplines to accelerate the pace of innovation and advancement in the field of neural interface research, particularly the ability to connect disparate technologies across the globe and move towards the democratisation of these technologies and remove a barrier to collaboration.
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