Neuron transistor behaves like a brain neuron

June 20, 2017 by Lisa Zyga feature
Structure of the neuron transistor, which contains a 2D flake of MoS2. Credit: S. G. Hu et al. ©2017 IOP Publishing

(Phys.org)—Researchers have built a new type of "neuron transistor"—a transistor that behaves like a neuron in a living brain. These devices could form the building blocks of neuromorphic hardware that may offer unprecedented computational capabilities, such as learning and adaptation.

The researchers, S. G. Hu and coauthors at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have published a paper on the neuron transistor in a recent issue of Nanotechnology.

In order for a transistor to behave like a biological neuron, it must be capable of implementing neuron-like functions—in particular, weighted summation and threshold functions. These refer to a biological neuron's ability to receive weighted input signals from many other neurons, and then to sum the input values and compare them to a threshold value to determine whether or not to fire. The human brain has tens of billions of neurons, and they are constantly performing weighted summation and threshold functions many times per second that together control all of our thoughts and actions.

In the new study, the researchers constructed a neuron transistor that acts like a single neuron, capable of weighted summation and threshold functions. Instead of being made of silicon like conventional , the neuron transistor is made of a two-dimensional flake of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which belongs to a new class of semiconductor called .

To demonstrate the neuron transistor's neuron-like behavior, the researchers showed that it can be controlled by either one gate or two gates simultaneously. In the latter case, the neuron transistor implements a summation . To demonstrate, the researchers showed that the neuron transistor can perform a counting task analogous to moving the beads in a two-bead abacus, along with other logic functions.

One of the advantages of the neuron transistor is its operating speed. Although other neuron transistors have already been built, they typically operate at frequencies of less than or equal to 0.05 Hz, which is much lower than the average firing rate of biological of about 5 Hz. The new neuron transistor works in a wide frequency range of 0.01 to 15 Hz, which the researchers expect will offer advantages for developing neuromorphic hardware.

In the future, the researchers hope to add more control gates to the neuron transistor, creating a more realistic model of a biological neuron with its many inputs. In addition, the researchers hope to integrate neuron transistors with memristors (which are considered to be the most suitable device for implementing synapses) to construct neuromorphic systems that can work in a similar way to the brain.

Explore further: A turbo engine for tracing neurons

More information: S. G. Hu et al. "A MoS2-based coplanar neuron transistor for logic applications." Nanotechnology. DOI: 10.1088/1361-6528/aa6b47

Related Stories

A turbo engine for tracing neurons

April 27, 2017

Putting a turbo engine into an old car gives it an entirely new life—suddenly it can go further, faster. That same idea is now being applied to neuroscience, with a software wrapper that can be used on existing neuron tracing ...

Neuromorphic computing mimics important brain feature

August 18, 2016

(Phys.org)—When you hear a sound, only some of the neurons in the auditory cortex of your brain are activated. This is because every auditory neuron is tuned to a certain range of sound, so that each neuron is more sensitive ...

Recommended for you

Atomic blasting creates new devices to measure nanoparticles

December 14, 2017

Like sandblasting at the nanometer scale, focused beams of ions ablate hard materials to form intricate three-dimensional patterns. The beams can create tiny features in the lateral dimensions—length and width, but to create ...

Engineers create plants that glow

December 13, 2017

Imagine that instead of switching on a lamp when it gets dark, you could read by the light of a glowing plant on your desk.

5 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

CubicAdjunct747
5 / 5 (3) Jun 20, 2017
awesome, sign me up for a daughter board on my brain!
zave
5 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2017
Now they need to find out out a away to make ai unhackable.Or they can have people monitor
the ai system remotely.Then alert the owners when someone has hacked into it.
ddaye
not rated yet Jun 20, 2017
Now they need to find out out a away to make ai unhackable


In the world of neuron-utilizing ugly sacks of mostly water, hacking is done with marketing.
dirk_bruere
not rated yet Jun 21, 2017
Now connect several thousand synaptic links to it, like a real neuron
thingumbobesquire
1 / 5 (2) Jun 21, 2017
'The human brain has tens of billions of neurons, and they are constantly performing weighted summation and threshold functions many times per second that together control all of our thoughts and actions.'

This statement is, of course, sententious nonsense, but unfortunately par for the course in the domain of "the brain is a computer" idiocy.

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.