New Brain-type Device with Human-like Memorizing and Forgetting Behavior
Realizes Complex Synaptic Behaviors with a Single Device for the First Time
National Institute for Materials Science
Japan Science and Technology Agency
A research group of WPI MANA, NIMS, in joint work with the UCLA, succeeded for the first time in the world in the development of a new device called a “synaptic device,” which autonomously reproduces two phenomena which are distinctive features of the neural activity of the brain, namely, “memorizing necessary information” and “forgetting unnecessary information,” with a single device.
- A research group including Postdoctoral Fellow Takeo Ohno, MANA Principal Investigator Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Director-General Masakazu Aono, and others of the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA), National Institute for Materials Science (President: Sukekatsu Ushioda) , in joint work with Prof. J. Gimzewski of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in the United States, succeeded for the first time in the world in the development of a new device called a “synaptic device,” which autonomously reproduces two phenomena which are distinctive features of the neural activity of the brain, namely, “memorizing necessary information” and “forgetting unnecessary information,” with a single device.
- Because present-day computer systems are considered to be approaching the limits of higher performance, the development of neural network systems and brain-type computers is seen as necessary in achieving even higher performance. The newly-developed device is equivalent to a biological synapse, which is essential for realizing this goal. The human brain memorizes information more reliably with the more frequent rehearsal, and conversely, infrequent rehearsal only forms vague memories to be forgotten. It is thought that these mechanisms are realized by changes in the strength of synaptic connections in the brain.
- The synaptic device developed in this research is capable of adjusting its own strength of a synaptic connection depending on the frequency of electrical stimulation. Even when the strength of the stimuli and number of repetitions of the stimulation are the same, frequent stimulation causes a strong synaptic connection maintained persistently (i.e., the long-term memory), whereas the infrequent stimulation only causes a temporal increase in the synaptic connection. It was found that this kind of device operation is in good agreement with the changes in the strength of synaptic connections in the brain.
- The synaptic device comprises a metal electrode and an ionic/electronic mixed conductor electrode. Using ion movement, which depends on the input frequency of electrical stimuli, the researchers succeeded in controlling the state of the metal atom bridge formed between the electrodes, in other words, the synaptic strength of the device.
- Artificial reproduction of synapses, which are key constituent elements in neural circuits, is indispensable for neural network systems and brain-type computers. Conventional artificial synapses, which had been realized by complicated circuits and software, can only operate as designed in advance. Because the new synaptic device will enable diverse operations without prior operational design, it is expected to contribute to the construction of artificial intelligence which becomes wiser with experience, in precisely the same way as humans.
- This research achievement will be announced in the online bulletin of the English scientific journal “Nature Materials” on June 27, 2011, at 2:00 a.m. Japanese time (18:00 June 26 local time).