Artificial neurons created on microchip

A major breakthrough for neural technology as scientists reproduce the electrical properties of neurons on a semiconductor chip.

Researchers at Bath have made a world first breakthrough with an artificial chip that mimics the behaviour of neurons. It’s being hailed as a major breakthrough which could hasten treatments for chronic diseases such as dementia, heart failure and many others.

Longevity.Technology: Designing artificial neurons which can emulate the real thing has been a goal for scientists for decades. This breakthrough pushes back the horizon of possibility, opening the way towards a cure for some of the most serious neurodegenerative diseases.

The chip contains artificial neurons which behave in exactly the same way as the real thing; they use only a billionth of the power of a microprocessor making them ideal for use in medical implants or biometric devices.

The team was led by the University of Bath but included researchers from Bristol University, Zurich and Auckland published their findings in Nature Communications.

World First as artificial neurons created on microchip
One of the artificial neuron chips from the team at Bath

Researchers modelled and derived equations to explain how neurons respond to electrical stimuli from other nerves. It’s incredibly complicated as responses are nonlinear. For example, if a signal becomes twice as strong it doesn’t necessary lead to double the reaction.

Using these calculations, the researchers designed chips which could accurately model biological ion channels before proving their chips mimicked living neurons.

Designing realistic artificial neurons has been a major goal for the world of medicine for decades. The team’s success opens the pathway to a world in which doctors can cure conditions in which neurons aren’t working properly, have had their neural processes severed or have ultimately died.

The research comes at a time of frantic activity in the neurology sector [1]. The number of neurotech start-ups is on the rise. Exciting start-ups are developing technology which can combine artificial and biological intelligence via a neural network.

In the more immediate term these technologies are enhancing cognitive performance but in the longer term they raise the possibility of replacing faulty neurons and creating a permanent artificial singularity.

The potential is enormous as project lead Professor Alain Nogaret from the University of Bath’s Department of Physics explained. “Until now, neurons have been like black boxes, but we have managed to open the black box and peer inside,” he said. “Our work is paradigm changing because it provides a robust method to reproduce the electrical properties of real neurons in minute detail [2].”

[1] https://www.medgadget.com/2019/01/global-neurotechnology-market-to-register-strong-growth-in-2019-2025-top-players-are-general-electric-siemens-healthcare-koninklijke-philips-toshiba-medical-and-other.html

[2] https://www.bath.ac.uk/announcements/world-first-as-artificial-neurons-developed-to-cure-chronic-diseases/

Image credit: Bath University
Carla Heyworth
Carla is sub editor at Longevity.Technology and she's the glue that keeps the team on track and the articles rolling-out. She has an extensive background in B2B communications, events and marketing. Carla's a visual person and can often be found behind a camera or editing photos

Latest articles

Selfie biomarkers: AI and insurtech implications for Longevity

AI firm Lapetus targets the face as a biomarker of aging: one simple picture can open-up a host of opportunities and implications. Wow. Named after...

Low levels of stress hormone contributes to aging

When it comes to the stress hormone cortisol, balance is everything, according to a new study in Germany.  There have been plenty of studies that...

Rejuvenation Roadmap charts life extension progress

We take a trip down Lifespan.io's Rejuvenation Roadmap – and it's a journey towards Longevity progress. Lifespan.io is a US-based non-profit organisation that seeks to...

Longevity therapies delivered through skin is a topical issue

Non-invasive therapy that comes in a bottle could be the Longevity crème de la crème. Therapeutic substances like arnica, turmeric and witch hazel have been...