Synthetic synapse mimics dynamic memory in human brain

Jul 22, 2011 By Jennifer Marcus

Researchers from UCLA and Japan have designed a synthetic synapse for use in computing equipment that mimics the function of synapses in the human brain. The silver sulfide, nanoscale synapse, or "atomic switch," demonstrates both short- and long-term memory to a degree not seen before in solid-state devices.

In the brain, synapses are the junction between that enable the transmission of electrical messages from one neuron to another. Emulating this, the silver sulfide synapse is made up of two metal electrodes separated by a nanoscale gap. In their study, the researchers applied a voltage, or "electrical message," to the device at two different intervals — one in which the input pulse was repeated every 20 seconds (lower repetition), the other in which it was repeated every two seconds (higher repetition).
 
At the lower repetition rate, the synapse achieved a higher conduction state directly after each input, but that state rapidly faded on its own. This mirrors the short-term plasticity (STP) of a human synapse. At the higher repetition rate, however, the synapse achieved a permanent transition to a higher conduction state, successfully mimicking the long-term potentiation (LTP) mechanism of a human synapse.
 
The STP and LTP activity of the synthetic synapse, the researchers say, conforms to psychological models of human — including short- and long-term memory — and can be achieved without the need for external preprogramming or the poorly scalable software currently used in artificial neural network systems.

The research represents an important advance toward the construction of artificial neural systems that emulate characteristics of human memory and cognition and could have a significant impact on the future design of computer architecture.

Explore further: Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

More information: The research was recently published online in the journal Nature Materials and is available at bit.ly/pDoXJB

Related Stories

Brain-Like Computer Closer to Realization

Mar 17, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Almost since computing began, scientists and technologists have been fascinated with the idea of a computer that works similarly to the human brain. In 2008, the first "memristor" was built, ...

Scientists capture the first image of memories being made

Jun 18, 2009

The ability to learn and to establish new memories is essential to our daily existence and identity; enabling us to navigate through the world. A new study by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute ...

Recommended for you

Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

5 hours ago

ETH researchers have developed a comprehensive model to explain how electrons flow inside new types of solar cells made of tiny crystals. The model allows for a better understanding of such cells and may ...

Researchers use oxides to flip graphene conductivity

Jan 26, 2015

Graphene, a one-atom thick lattice of carbon atoms, is often touted as a revolutionary material that will take the place of silicon at the heart of electronics. The unmatched speed at which it can move electrons, ...

Researchers make magnetic graphene

Jan 26, 2015

Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, has many desirable properties. Magnetism alas is not one of them. Magnetism can be induced in graphene by doping it with magnetic ...

The latest fashion: Graphene edges can be tailor-made

Jan 23, 2015

Theoretical physicists at Rice University are living on the edge as they study the astounding properties of graphene. In a new study, they figure out how researchers can fracture graphene nanoribbons to get ...

Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials

Jan 23, 2015

One of the reasons solar cells are not used more widely is cost—the materials used to make them most efficient are expensive. Engineers are exploring ways to print solar cells from inks, but the devices ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Ricochet
not rated yet Jul 25, 2011
So, when they're building androids that look and act at least somewhat human, that can learn and develop as humans, will they call them Nexus?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.