Nano-scale memristor paves way for brain prosthetics
Researchers have developed a nano-scale memristor that can function as an artificial neural synapse, providing interface for brain prosthetics.
A memristor is a rather simple device that regulates the flow of electrical current in a circuit but also remembers the amount of charge that was flowing through it and retains the data, even when the power is turned off.
In an article published in the journal Nature Communications, a team from the University of Southampton described how they used such a minuscule memristor to process data in real time in a setting simulating brain activity.
“Our work can significantly contribute towards further enhancing the understanding of neuroscience, developing neuroprosthetics and bio-electronic medicines by building tools essential for interpreting the big data in a more effective way,” said Isha Gupta, a postgraduate research student at the university and lead author of the study.
In the experiment, the metal-oxide memristor, or Meristive Integrative Sensor (MIS), was subject to spikes of electrical voltage replicating neural activity.
The memristor was able to encode and compress those spikes up to 200 times. Besides addressing the bandwidth constraints, this approach was also very power-efficient – the power needed per recording channel was up to 100 times less when compared to current best practice.
“We are thrilled that we succeeded in demonstrating that these emerging nanoscale devices, despite being rather simple in architecture, possess ultra-rich dynamics that can be harnessed beyond the obvious memory applications to address the fundamental constraints in bandwidth and power that currently prohibit scaling neural interfaces beyond 1,000 recording channels,” said Themis Prodromakis, the study’s co-author.
The researchers hope that using such memristors and further developing the technology would enable developing more precise and affordable neuroprosthetics in future as well as bioelectronics devices.
The study was funded through the European FP7 programme.