A team of German scientists has created a circuit that mimics the functions of the human brain without the use of computer processors. The team’s highly technical research has been published in Applied Physics Letters.
The team created a circuit that features two oscillators which create periodic electrical impulses. Between the two oscillators is a network of special circuitry made up of special components that can ‘remember’ the level of voltage that previously flowed through them, allowing them to adapt to varying voltage levels generated by the oscillators. In this circuit, the oscillators were able to synchronize themselves similar to the manner in which neurons synchronize in the human brain.
It is this synchronization ability that has Thorsten Bartsch, neurologist at Kiel University and researcher in this study, excited about the potential of this new neural circuit:
There have been discussions for a long time whether the human consciousness is closely linked with this synchronisation of the neural impulses. This may provide the key to gaining a better understanding of brain functions.
While past attempts to create working neural networks have come close to recreating the brain’s higher functions, this new research is the first to recreate an adaptable network of simple circuits that can reconfigure themselves similar to the way networks of neurons in the brain structure themselves in response to stimuli such as sensory input or other cognitive activity.
The system depends upon specialized circuits called memristors. At its core, a memristor is a relatively simple circuit constructed from two conductive terminals. The circuit can actually ‘remember’ the level of current that has passed through it, and its future electrical resistance will vary based on those varying levels of current.
By constructing a circuit with multiple memristors, a type of electrical ‘memory’ can be created solely using electrical current. Memristor circuits can even store these ‘memories’ when not supplied with power, and recall them when power is restored. Because memristors are relatively simple circuits, they can be constructed out of many different materials and can even be made in flexible forms.