One of the tiny chips in its protective casing. (Credit: University of Bath)

Artificial neurons on silicon chips that behave just like the real thing have been invented by scientists — a first-of-its-kind achievement with enormous scope for medical devices to cure chronic diseases, such as heart failure, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases of neuronal degeneration.

Critically, the artificial neurons only need one billionth the power of a microprocessor, making them ideally suited for use in medical implants and other bioelectronic devices. Artificial neurons could repair diseased biocircuits by replicating their healthy function and responding adequately to biological feedback to restore bodily function.

The researchers successfully modeled and derived equations to explain how neurons respond to electrical stimuli from other nerves. This is incredibly complicated as responses are “non-linear” — in other words if a signal becomes twice as strong it shouldn’t necessarily elicit twice as big a reaction — it might be thrice bigger or something else.

The researchers accurately replicated the complete dynamics of hippocampal neurons and respiratory neurons from rats, under a wide range of stimuli.

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