ArC ONE connects machine and biology

Researchers at the University of Southampton’s Centre for Electronics Frontiers (CEF), along with colleagues at the University of Padova and the University of Zurich, have reached an important breakthrough by connecting biological and artificial neurons together and facilitating them to communicate over the internet.

The Researchers created a hybrid neural network where biological and artificial neurons were connected using an array of memristive synapses controlled by an ArC ONE™. This is the first time the three components have come together in a unified network. ArC ONE’s versatility and ease-of-use were of key importance in creating the link between machine and biology using standard Internet technologies.

The Southampton based researchers captured spiking events being sent over the internet from the biological neurons in Italy and then distributed them to the memristive synapses. Responses were then sent onward to the artificial neurons in Zurich also in the form of spiking activity. The process simultaneously works in reverse too, from Zurich to Padova. Thus, artificial and biological neurons were able to communicate bidirectionally and in real time.

Conceptual diagram of the UDP experiment

Themis Prodromakis, Professor of Nanotechnology at the University of Southampton and Director of ArC Instruments said “One of the biggest challenges in conducting research of this kind and at this level has been integrating such distinct cutting-edge technologies and specialist expertise that are not typically found under one roof. By creating a virtual lab we have been able to achieve this”.

The researchers now anticipate that their approach will ignite interest from a range of scientific disciplines and accelerate the pace of innovation and scientific advancement in the field of neural interfaces research. In particular, the ability to seamlessly connect disparate technologies across the globe is a step towards the democratisation of these technologies, removing a significant barrier to collaboration.

Over 15 news outlets including; The Medical News and Russia’s AB News have picked up the report.

Read the paper: A. Serb, A. Corna, R. George et al, “Memristive synapses connect brain and silicon spiking neurons”, Scientific Reports, 10, 2590, 2020