The challenges to creating a synthetic brain are staggering. It must include hardware that emulates brain cells, their amazingly complex connectivity and a concept the researchers call 'plasticity,' which allows the artificial neurons to learn through experience and adapt to changes in their environment the way real neurons do. A synthetic brain may take decades to realize, but emulating pieces of the brain, such as a synthetic vision system, may be available quite soon.
Credit: Copyright 2009 Jupiter Images Corporation
The animation shows an artist's conception of a carbon nanotube synapse. The orange nanotubes are PMOS transistors (metal-oxide-field effect transistors with material containing an excess of holes) and the green nanotubes are NMOS transistors (metal-oxide-field effect transistors with material containing an excess of electrons). The red features are metallic interconnections and transistor gates, and the blue features are metallic interconnections.
Credit: Khushnood Irani and Alice Parker, University of Southern California
Alice Parker, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California, is studying the feasibility of creating a synthetic brain. She believes carbon nanotubes are an ideal material to emulate brain function because their 3-D structure allows connectivity in all directions on all planes and because a carbon-based prosthesis is less likely to be rejected by the human body than one made from inorganic materials.
Credit: Diane Ainsworth
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