A brain-inspired computing component provides the most faithful emulation yet of connections among neurons in the human brain, researchers say.
The so-called memristor, an electrical component whose resistance relies on how much charge has passed through it in the past, mimics the way calcium ions behave at the junction between two neurons in the human brain, the study said. That junction is known as a synapse. The researchers said the new device could lead to significant advances in brain-inspired — or neuromorphic — computers, which could be much better at perceptual and learning tasks than traditional computers, as well as far more energy efficient.
"In the past, people have used devices like transistors and capacitors tosimulate synaptic dynamics, which can work, but those devices have very little resemblance to real biological systems. So it's not efficient to do it that way, and it results in a larger device area, larger energy consumption and less fidelity," said study leader Joshua Yang, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Previous research has suggested that the human brain has about 100 billion neurons and approximately 1 quadrillion (1 million billion) synapses. A brain-inspired computer would ideally be designed to mimic the brain's enormous computing power and efficiency, scientists have said.
"With the synaptic dynamics provided by our device, we can emulate the synapse in a more natural way, more direct way and with more fidelity," he told Live Science. "You don't just simulate one type of synaptic function, but [also] other important features and actually get multiple synaptic functions together."
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