For centuries, science fiction movies and books pondered the question: Can a computer think like man?
Thanks to researchers at MIT, that question could finally have an answer. In a revolutionary advancement in technology, MIT researchers created a “brain chip.”
According to MIT News Office: “With about 400 transistors, the silicon chip can simulate the activity of a single brain synapse – a connection between two neurons that allows information to flow from one to the other. The researchers anticipate this chip will help neuroscientists learn much more about how the brain works, and could also be used in neural prosthetic devices such as artificial retinas, says Chi-Sang Poon, a principal research scientist in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.”
MIT researchers are hoping the chip could help brains as an artificial aid to damaged biological processes. For example, enabling a person with a damaged eye to see, or to improve the performance of prosthetic limbs on amputees.
“Previously, researchers had built circuits that could simulate the firing of an action potential, but not all of the circumstances that produce the potentials,” said the MIT News Office.
“If you really want to mimic brain function realistically, you have to do more than just spiking. You have to capture the intracellular processes that are ion channel-based,” said Poon to MIT News.
As the boundaries of technology reach even further, with computers like IBM’s Watson competing with human contestants on Jeopardy, researchers are on the cusp of developing a chip that can recreate every neurological step that makes our brain’s function.
“Of course, with truly analog processors comes real artificial intelligence, too – and not the kind that requires megawatts of power and a hangar full of server racks,” said Sebastian Anthony of Exteremtech.com.
“With current state-of-the-art technology it takes hours or days to simulate a simple brain circuit. With MIT’s brain chip, the simulation is ‘faster than the biological system itself.’ Gulp,” Anthony added.