A cartoon showing spikes of activity traveling among neurons.

“Neuristor”: Memristors used to create a neuron-like behavior

The solid-state device has an output that looks like neural activity spikes.

by John Timmer – Dec 24 2012, 10:13am EST

Computing hardware is composed of a series of binary switches; they’re either on or off. The other piece of computational hardware we’re familiar with, the brain, doesn’t work anything like that. Rather than being on or off, individual neurons exhibit brief spikes of activity, and encode information in the pattern and timing of these spikes. The differences between the two have made it difficult to model neurons using computer hardware. In fact, the recent, successful generation of a flexible neural system required that each neuron be modeled separately in software in order to get the sort of spiking behavior real neurons display.

But researchers may have figured out a way to create a chip that spikes. The people at HP labs who have been working on memristors have figured out a combination of memristors and capacitors that can create a spiking output pattern. Although these spikes appear to be more regular than the ones produced by actual neurons, it might be possible to create versions that are a bit more variable than this one. And, more significantly, it should be possible to fabricate them in large numbers, possibly right on a silicon chip.

Read more: “Neuristor”: Memristors used to create a neuron-like behavior | Ars Technica.

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