'Neuristor' Acts Like Your Brain's Neurons

The computer you're using now to read this article makes use of binary switches which (as the name suggests) have only two states, on or off. The individual neurons of your brain, on the other hand, perform their function using a different model of activity. Neurons exhibit spikes of activity; information can be encoded in the pattern of spiking. HP researchers have created a hardware device comprised of "neuristors" that mimic this behavior:

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.

The key to making the devices is something called a Mott insulator. These are materials that would normally be able to conduct electricity, but are unable to because of interactions among their electrons. Critically, these interactions weaken with elevated temperatures. So, by heating a Mott insulator, it's possible to turn it into a conductor. In the case of the material used here, NbO2, the heat is supplied by resistance itself. By applying a voltage to the NbO2 in the device, it becomes a resistor, heats up, and, when it reaches a critical temperature, turns into a conductor, allowing current to flow through. But, given the chance to cool off, the device will return to its resistive state. Formally, this behavior is described as a memristor.

To get the sort of spiking behavior seen in a neuron, the authors turned to a simplified model of neurons based on the proteins that allow them to transmit electrical signals. When a neuron fires, sodium channels open, allowing ions to rush into a nerve cell, and changing the relative charges inside and outside its membrane. In response to these changes, potassium channels then open, allowing different ions out, and restoring the charge balance. That shuts the whole thing down, and allows various pumps to start restoring the initial ion balance.

In the authors' circuit, there were two units, one representing the sodium channels, the other the potassium channels. Each unit consisted of a capacitor (to allow it to build up charge) in parallel to a memristor (which allowed the charge to be released suddenly. In the proper arrangement, the combination produces spikes of activity as soon as a given voltage threshold is exceeded. The authors have termed this device a "neuristor."

"Neuristor" is a term coined by visionary computer science engineer Hewitt Crane in his PhD thesis in 1958. However, sf writers have made good use of the word. Robert Heinlein constructed the artificially intelligent computer Mycroft Holmes in his 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress out of neuristors. Roger Zelazny used the idea of a neuristor brain to great effect in his 1976 novella Home is the Hangman.

The earliest reference that I know about is the artificial, inorganic artificial brain from Edmond Hamilton's 1926 story The Metal Giants:

No doubt it was a startling proposition, to construct an artificial brain that would possess consciousness, memory, reasoning power...

...Detmold had attacked the problem from a different standpoint. It was his theory that the sensations of the nervous system are flashed to the brain as electric currents, or vibrations, and that it was the action of these vibratory currents on the brain-stuff that caused consciousness and thought. Thus, instead of trying to make simple, living cells and from them work up the complicated structure of the brain, he had constructed an organ, a brain, of metal, entirely inorganic and lifeless, yet whose atomic structure he claimed was analogous to the atomic structure of a living brain. He had then applied countless different electrical vibrations to this metallic brain-stuff, and finally announced that under vibrations of certain frequencies the organ had showed faint signs of consciousness.

Via Arstechnica; see also A scalable neuristor built with Mott memristors.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/6/2013)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Computer ")

Neuromorphic Computing Hardare
'He had constructed an organ, a brain, of metal, entirely inorganic and lifeless...' - Edmond Hamilton, 1926.

Finally! Microsoft Surface Neo And Surface Duo Implement Excellent Courier Idea
'Runcible, whose pages were thicker and more densely packed with computational machinery...' - Neal Stephenson, 1995.

Tap Strap 2 Now With Air Mouse
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.' - Philip K. Dick, 1955.

Entire Planet Modeled In New MS Flight Sim
'CIC uses [it] to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns...' - Neal Stephenson, 1992.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Sci-Fi Helps Young Readers Build Resiliency
'Reading science fiction and fantasy can help readers make sense of the world.'

I Want My 1928 Telestereo Hologram Now
'Instantly there appeared standing upon the disk, the image of a man...'

Memes Now Come From Neural Nets
'Your order said for him to be able to be able to work out twists on the gags in the file...'

Robot Dog Learns To Be Doggy From Real Dogs
'So we took pictures of Guzub making a Three Planets, and I could construct this one to do it exactly right down to the thousandth of a second.'

Unwanted Cruise Ships Huddle Together Out At Sea
'On the screen they passed in an endless, boundaryless flood of green specks...'

Sono Sion Electric Car Charges As You Drive
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

News Mood Filter Web Extension
'He adjusted the n, the r and b knobs, and hopefully anticipated a turn for the better...'

Fetal Lamb Rests In Artificial Womb
'... stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones, the foetuses grew and grew...'

MIT Wants To Catch Interstellar Visitors
'INVESTIGATE MYSTERIOUS OBJECT ENTERING NEW CALEDONIA SYSTEM FROM NORMAL SPACE'

AutoX Sets Up Asia's Largest Robotaxi Center
'The robot cab seemed to know where it was going and, no doubt, the master machine from which it received its signals knew.'

E - Ink's Automatic Self Styling Color-Changing Dress
'The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools.'

Soft Robots Use Kirigami Piezoelectric Sensor Skin
'A worthy opponent was the golem.'

Bosch Smartglasses Laser Paints AR Image On Your Retina
'Soon we'll be testing a system that projects directly on the retina of the eye.'

Maybe We Could Hibernate Until The Covid-19 Pandemic's End
'Cold-rest was a common last resort therapy for functional psychoses.'

Workplace Monitoring Hell, I Mean, Tool For Safe Distancing
'And here is the weirdest part -- I never see another employee the entire day.'

Patent Office Says AIs Cannot Be Inventors
'The real smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let 'em get.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.