Andrew Steckl, University of Cincinnati
Exploring a Real Artificial Brain—Challenges and Opportunities Using a Semi-Soft Approach
Written by Frieda Wiley
Unlike many other areas of materials science and sensory-based research, artificial brain research can be fairly abstract and difficult to qualify. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati seek to explore whether they can build an artificial brain that mimics the functions of an authentic human brain but that can be implanted and connected to the real thing.
In addition to the abstract nature of the topic, materials scientists face additional hurdles: These include identifying the appropriate materials, and the electronic properties needed for these materials; determining how much energy will be consumed; and elucidating the manner by which they can accomplish all the multiple connections required for the artificial brain to assimilate the activities of a human brain.
Part of the assimilation process lies in the structure of the artificial brain, which like a human brain should have a hydrophilic exterior and hydrophobic interior. Functionality consists of an e-chemical transistor (ECT) based on core/sheath organic fibers.
Data regarding successful integration practices are lacking, contributing to the multiple unknowns in solving this task. However, attempting to answer two groups of questions may help scientists to collect the data they need to move forward. These are addressing lower-level functions, such as those carried out by nodes or neurons and exploring the connectivity relationships between axons and synapses. Higher level functions such as learning memory will help to address additional questions.
Current approaches for neuromorphic research include digital devices, digital computer simulation (e.g., software, most of which are analog devices; these may include both organic and inorganic devices).
While researchers have identified some of the unknowns in this multifactorial equation, they have yet to elucidate interconnections, testing, and integration.