Connor McCallum

Forget “Social Distancing” … Researchers Want to Connect Your Brain to the Internet

If you’ve welcomed social distancing into your life, researchers from Zurich have a rather long cord and a question for you.

 

Brain functions are made possible by circuits of spiking neurons connected via microscopic and extraordinarily complex links called synapses. Thanks to electronics that have made important advances to emulate neurons and synapses, scientists have created a hybrid neural network where brain and artificial neurons in different parts of the globe were able to communicate with each other over the internet through a hub of artificial synapses, according to a new study published in Nature Scientific Reports.

Never before has a geographically distributed hybrid network of artificial and biological neurons connected through physical synapse-like elements. The study had researchers based at the University of Padova in Italy cultivate rat neurons in their lab while research partners in the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich created artificial neurons on microchips. Finally, nanoelectronic synapses developed at the University of Southampton served as the connection between the two. The experiment proved to be a success—artificial and biological neurons were able to communicate bidirectionally and in real-time.

 

The researchers who took part in the experiment anticipate that the trail they have blazed will garner interest from a range of scientific disciplines, accelerating the pace of innovation and scientific advancement in the field of neural interfaces research.

 

“One of the biggest challenges in conducting research of this kind and at this level has been integrating such distinct cutting edge technologies and specialist expertise that are not typically found under one roof,” said Themis Prodromakis, Professor of Nanotechnology and Director of the Center for Electronics Frontiers at the University of Southampton. “By creating a virtual lab, we have been able to achieve this.”

The researchers who took part in the experiment anticipate that the trail they have blazed will garner interest from a range of scientific disciplines, accelerating the pace of innovation and scientific advancement in the field of neural interfaces research.

“We are very excited with this new development,” added Professor Prodromakis. “On one side it sets the basis for a novel scenario that was never encountered during natural evolution, where biological and artificial neurons are linked together and communicate across global networks; laying the foundations for the Internet of Neuro-electronics. On the other hand, it brings new prospects to neuroprosthetic technologies, paving the way towards research into replacing dysfunctional parts of the brain with AI chips.”

 

Related posts

*

Top