Biological and artificial neurons linked using standard IP

A world wide web that is partly biological has been created around the globe by collaborating scientists. New nanoelectronic device research has enabled both artificial and brain neurons to communicate with each other over the internet.

Researchers have successfully linked up a biological neuron with two silicon-based artificial neurons and managed to achieve this connection despite being in different countries. A fully-functional network was created using standard internet protocols.

An artificial neuron was able to control a living/biological one, which in turn was able to pass the information on to an additional artificial neuron: machine-man-machine.

Longevity.Technology: This is BIG news and heralds success for artificial neurons that could combat degenerative diseases, as well as being able to outsource or back-up brain function remotely. This research has implications for Longevity in a non-corporeal existence as well as removing geographical barriers to collaboration. The singularity is 3 neurons closer.

The brain functions by using neurons, all connected in circuits by microscopic, but highly complicated links named synapses. The three labs: Padova, Italy; Zurich, Switzerland; and Southampton, UK – were able to create a self-controlled, hybrid artificial-biological neural network. The network communicated using biological principles, but it did so over the internet.

The network of artificial synapses was made using cutting-edge nanotechnology, while the biological element was cultivated from rat neurons. This is the first time that these three elements have been joined together in a unified network.

The neurons spiking (discharging electrical signals) was tracked being sent over the internet from Italy to Southampton and then sent on to Zurich. The signals were also reversed, being monitored travelling from Zurich to Padova, showing they can travel bidirectionally.

“… paving the way towards research into replacing dysfunctional parts of the brain with AI chips …”


Themis Prodromakis, Professor of Nanotechnology and Director of the Centre for Electronics Frontiers at the University of Southampton, said: “One of the biggest challenges in conducting research of this kind and at this level has been integrating such distinct cutting edge technologies and specialist expertise that are not typically found under one roof. By creating a virtual lab we have been able to achieve this.

“We are very excited with this new development. On one side it sets the basis for a novel scenario that was never encountered during natural evolution, where biological and artificial neurons are linked together and communicate across global networks; laying the foundations for the Internet of Neuro-electronics. On the other hand, it brings new prospects to neuroprosthetic technologies, paving the way towards research into replacing dysfunctional parts of the brain with AI chips [1].”

The brain is the most advanced computer (memory and processing happening in the same place) meaning data is stored and handled in one place, not pinged about between storage and processing zones. Keeping it and dealing with it on the same site hugely reduces processing time as well as energy use; as deep learning increases in importance and continues to mimic neural processing, these results could help boost speed and promote flexible learning for AI and Neural technology.


Image credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Eleanor Garth
Staff Writer and Community Manager Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

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