Neuristors: The future of brain-like computer chips

By John Hewitt on December 31, 2012 at 9:30 am

Hewitt Crane was a practical minded kind of guy. To help the world get a better feel for just how much oil it used in a year, he came up the unit he called the cubic mile of oil (CMO), to considerable acclaim. Crane was actually one of the pioneers of computing. He was an early developer of magnetic core RAM, eye-tracking devices, pen input devices, and invented the first all-magnetic computers still finding extensive use for fail-safe systems in the military. Today, another kind of device he presciently envisioned back in 1960 is starting to attract attention — the neuristor.

A neuristor is the simplest possible device that can capture the essential property of a neuron — that is, the ability to generate a spike or impulse of activity when some threshold is exceeded. A neuristor can be thought of as a slightly leaky balloon that receives inputs in the form of puffs of air. When its limit is reached, it pops. The only major difference is that more complex neuristors can repeat the process again and again, as long as spikes occur no faster than a certain recharge period known as the refractory period. A neuristor uses a relatively simple electronic circuit to generate spikes. Incoming signals charge a capacitor that is placed in parallel with a device called a memristor. The memristor behaves like a resistor except that once the small currents passing through it start to heat it up, its resistance rapidly drops off. When that happens, the charge built up on the capacitor by incoming spikes discharges, and there you have it — a spiking neuron comprised of just two elementary circuit elements.

Read more: Neuristors: The future of brain-like computer chips | ExtremeTech.

Home           Top of page