of Southern California researchers have come one step closer to
building a synthetic brain through the invention of a carbon nanotube synapse
Alice Parker and Professor Chongwu Zhou, leaders of the study from the
University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering Ming Hsieh
Department of Electrical Engineering, have developed a carbon nanotube synapse
circuit that acts like a neuron, and could potentially be used to create a
synthetic brain in an effort to better understand brain function.
and Zhou wanted to use carbon nanotubes specifically because they
are exceptionally tiny carbon structures that can be used as semiconductors or
metallic conductors in electronic circuits.
is a necessary first step in the process," said Parker. "We wanted to
answer the question: Can you build a circuit that would act like a neuron? The
next step is even more complex. How can we build structures out of these
circuits that mimic the function of the brain, which has 100 billion
neurons and 10,000 synapses per neuron?"
this research is in the beginning stages, the team plans to create a network of
analog circuits that act similarly to the human brain's complex connections between neurons. The next
step is to increase the plasticity in the circuits in order to make them more
life-like and functional like the human brain.
and Zhou believe the development of a network of analog circuits in a synthetic
human brain could lead to prosthetic nanotechnology that would aid in the
treatment of brain injuries. It could also lead to new auto technology that
would protect drivers in a whole new way.
complete synthetic brain or a functional brain area will not be completed for
decades, according to Parker. The brain's complex processes such as producing
neurons and making connections will be difficult to reproduce, but this
research is a crucial first step in that direction.