An international joint research team led by National Institute for Materials Science in Japan is currently developing a brain-like memory device using the neuromorphic network material. Neuromorphic computing is concerned with emulating the neural structure and operation of the human brain, according to chip giant Intel. The team intends to design the memory device to operate using fundamentally different principles than those used in current computers.
The team also hopes that this research will facilitate understanding of the brain's information processing mechanisms.
In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers reported that they succeeded in fabricating a neuromorphic network composed of numerous metallic nanowires.
Using this network, the team was able to generate electrical characteristics similar to those associated with higher-order brain functions unique to humans, such as memorisation, learning, forgetting, becoming alert and returning to calm.
The team then clarified the mechanisms that induced these electrical characteristics.
The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques has been rapidly advancing in recent years and has begun impacting our lives in various ways.
Although AI processes information in a manner similar to the human brain, the mechanisms by which human brains operate are still largely unknown.
Fundamental brain components, such as neurons and the junctions between them (synapses), have been studied in detail.
However, many questions concerning the brain as a collective whole need to be answered.
For example, we still do not fully understand how the brain performs such functions as memorisation, learning and forgetting, and how the brain becomes alert and returns to calm. In addition, live brains are difficult to manipulate in experimental research.
For these reasons, the brain remains a "mysterious organ."
A different approach to brain research - in which materials and systems capable of performing brain-like functions are created and their mechanisms are investigated - may be effective in identifying new applications of brain-like information processing and advancing brain science.
In the neuromorphic network that the researchers succeeded in fabricating, they observed temporal fluctuations that resemble the processes by which the brain becomes alert or returns to calm.
Emerging fluctuation-based functionalities are expected to open a way to novel memory device technology.