A Biologically Plausible Spiking Neuron in Hardware

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Electrical Engineering and Electronics


Neuroscientists now know that the human brain is made up of millions of small units, called neurons, which are connected to each other in a very complex way. These neurons carry out relatively simple calculations using the information that enters the brain from our senses (eyes, touch, etc,) and the result of these calculations is passed on to other neurons as small electrical signals. Because each neuron performs simple calculations, it is believed that very complex calculations, such as recognizing someone, can be achieved when millions of neurons are connected together to form a network, as is the case in the human brain. Engineers and scientists are interested in how the brain carries outthese calculations because the computing power of the brain far exceeds that of any man made machine, such as the desktop computer. Much of the processing the brain is learned over time. Therefore, to understand how the brain learns to perform complex calculations, engineers and scientists are continually trying to build models of the brain, called artificial neural networks. Much of this modeling is carried out using computers or electronic circuits that mimic neuron behavior. The problems facing engineers and scientists in designing electronic neurons are: 1) designing circuits that behave like neurons and 2) making the circuits small enough so that millions of them can be placed on a silicon chip and 3) these neurons must consume minimal power. Since there are no available electronic component that can mimic the components of a neurons, what is required is the development of a new electronic components with small physical dimensions that operates just like real neurons and consume miminal power. This is what we are trying to achieve. The project aims to develop an electronic neuron that has the capability of mimicking a biological neuron but yet consume minimal energy and space. Such a neuron will then be suitable as the basic building block for the next generation of neural networks. The research will involve the design, development and testing of the electronic neuron and subsequently a learning algorithm will be developed that can train a neural network made up of these neurons to recognise artifacts of the real world.


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Description A number of key building blocks for analogue neural networks have been invented, designed, modelled, fabricated and tested.
The next phase is to integrate them into larger systems. A number of key challenges regarding such scaling up of the circuitry have been identified. Such brain-inspired electronics is being actively considered by the industry for future generation computing.
Exploitation Route The next phase is to integrate them into larger systems. A number of key challenges regarding such scaling up of the circuitry have been identified.
A further paper on scaling issues - specifically fan-in of synapses into a summing circuit, has been published and added to the site.
Sectors Education,Electronics