Artificial neurons on silicon chips that behave exactly like the real thing have been engineered by scientists—the first-of-its-kind accomplishment with enormous scope for medical devices to cure chronic diseases, such as heart failure, Alzheimer’s, and different diseases of neuronal degeneration.
Critically the artificial neurons not only behave like organic neurons; however, they require one billionth of the power of a microprocessor, making them suitable for use in medical implants and other bio-electronic units.
The research group, led by the University of Bath and researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Zurich, and Auckland, explain the artificial neurons in a study published in Nature Communications.
Designing artificial neurons that respond to electrical signals from the nervous system like real neurons had been a significant objective in drugs for many years, as it opens up the potential of curing conditions where neurons aren’t working correctly, have had their processes severed as in spinal cord injury, or have died. Artificial neurons may repair diseased bio-circuits by replicating their healthy function and responding adequately to organic suggestions to restore bodily function.
In heart failure, for example, neurons in the base of the brain don’t reply appropriately to nervous system feedback; they, in turn, don’t send the correct signals to the heart, which then doesn’t pump as hard as it needs to.
However, creating artificial neurons has been a great challenge because of the difficulties of complex biology and hard-to-predict neuronal responses.
The researchers successfully modeled and derived equations to explain how neurons respond to electrical stimuli from other nerves. That is extremely difficult as responses are ‘non-linear’.