Scientists have finally decoded and recreated the bizarre behaviors of brain cells in small computer chips.
According to a University of Bath press release, the tiny neurons could change the way we build medical devices because they replicate healthy biological activity but require only one billionth of the energy microprocessors need.
Neurons act in the body similar to electrical circuits, but their behavior is less predictable— especially when it comes to parsing the relationship between their electrical impulses input and output.
But, according to research published Tuesday in Nature Communications, these new artificial brain cells successfully mimic the behavior of rat neurons from two specific regions of the brain.
“Neurons were like black boxes until now, but we managed to open the black box and peek inside,” physicist Alain Nogaret of the University of Bath said in the statement. “Our research is shifting paradigm as it offers a reliable method for reproducing in minute detail the electrical properties of real neurons.”
The ultimate goal is to use these neurons to build medical devices that can better serve the needs of patients, such as a smarter pacemaker that can respond to new stressors and demands on the heart of a person — essentially updating devices to be more in sync with the body.
Julian Paton, a physiologist at Auckland and Bristol Universities, said in the release that recreating biological activity is exciting because it “opens up enormous possibilities for smarter medical devices that push a variety of diseases and disabilities towards personalized medicine approaches.”