An image of the new computer chip, that mimics the activity of neurons in the brain (Photo: MIT)
The human brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons, and each one of those communicates with many others by releasing neurotransmitters. Those neurotransmitters cross a gap – properly known as a synapse – between the sending (presynaptic) and receiving (postsynaptic) neurons. Ion channels on the membranes of the postsynaptic neurons open or close in response to the arrival of the neurotransmitters, changing the neurons’ electrical potential. Should that potential change to a sufficient degree, the neuron will produce an electrical impulse known as an action potential. It’s a very complex process ... and scientists from MIT have now recreated it on a silicon computer chip.