The University of Bath created an electronic analog neuron

A team of scientists from Bath University has developed an electronic device that, according to the developers, copies the behavior of neurons. So far, an artificial neuron plays the role of only one of the types of human nerve cells that work in the brain – those that are responsible for respiration and heartbeat.

However, the developers said that their technology makes it possible to create other neurons, both those that work in the brain and those located in the nerve endings throughout the body. The main task that electronic neurons perform is to reproduce the electrical activity of real cells.

And not just activity, but the work that a real neuron would do if it were connected to other cells. This is something like an analogue simulator that does not perform calculations and does not work with a “digit”.

It is worth noting that the idea underlying the project is not new. It was voiced by scientists Alan Lloyd Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley in the middle of the 20th century. They suggested that a neuron could be reproduced artificially. To do this, use a membrane that acts as an electrical circuit. It, in turn, consists of four different elements, including a capacitor and three independent ion channels with variable conductivity.

Scientists also developed a mathematical model that describes the work of ion channels with variable conductivity. As it turned out, this model really works, but only in theory and in experiments related to electricity.

And there is a need to create an artificial neuro, because this is the only way to restore, for example, a damaged nervous system. But added elements that replace artificial or damaged ones should work like real neurons.

This problem is solved by an artificial neuron, developed under the guidance of the scientist Alain Nogare. According to scientists, in an artificial neuron a specific electrical circuit, it makes it possible to reproduce the reaction of a real neuron to external factors.

The development drawback now is the large size of the device. This is a silicon chip. But on the other hand, the system is fully consistent with both the Hodgkin-Huxley model and newer models. The accuracy of the chip is about 96%.

Scientists decided to test the operation of a neuron, for which they modeled a real system – the pyramidal cells of the hippocampus and neurons of the rat respiratory center. This system was chosen because of its excellent knowledge: scientists know how and where nerve cells are located, and they know the ratio of neurons. As a result, it turned out that artificial analogues can be created from artificial neurons provided that six types of model ion channels are introduced with a specific algorithm of work.

Then, different sequences of electrical signals were tested on the created systems. As it turned out, the accuracy of the reproduction of pulses was very close to real conditions – from 94% to 97%.

After information about the study appeared on the network, they started talking about the project that it could become the main one for treating diseases associated with damage to the nervous system. However, this is not entirely true, the practical use of the project results is still very far away.

The main problem is that the "neuron" is very large, it is a chip. Implanting it into the body is not an easy task, which is complicated by the fact that you still need to create connections between artificial cells. These bonds form channels that conduct electrical current.

Nevertheless, the development of simple bionic prostheses, as well as interfaces for connecting the human nervous system to a computer, is quite promising. Here, the possibility of using chips is now, so the authors of the project are likely to study this possibility in the near future.

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