Scientists have created key parts of synthetic brain cells that can store memories for milliseconds. This achievement could lead to the creation of computers that work like the human brain.
The particles that the researchers took to simulate an artificial brain cell use charged particles called ions. They create a kind of electrical signal that transfers information between neurons in the brain.
The researchers explained that modern computers can do incredible things, but that this processing power requires a lot of energy. In contrast, the human brain is efficient: it uses a tiny amount of energy to get it done all day long. The reasons for this efficiency are not completely clear, but scientists have tried to make the computer more like a brain. One way scientists are trying to replicate the biological mechanisms of the brain is by harnessing the power of ions, the charged particles that the brain relies on to generate electricity.
In a new study, scientists at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, France have created a computer model of artificial neurons that can produce the same electrical signals that neurons use to transmit information in the brain; By sending ions through thin jets of water that mimic real ion channels, the researchers could produce these electrical bursts. And now they have even created a physical model that includes these channels.
Thus, the researchers have obtained a system that simulates the process of generating action potentials (“spikes”) – surges of electrical activity generated by neurons, they are the basis of brain activity. To generate an action potential, the neuron begins to let in more positive ions, which are attracted to negative ions inside the cell.
The electrical potential, or voltage across the cell membrane, causes the “cell doors” to open, which further increases the charge until the cell peaks and returns to normal after a few milliseconds. The signal is then passed on to other cells, allowing information to travel through the brain. In the preliminary model, the researchers also recorded a semblance of memory – the ability to retain information for a short period of time.