Hmmm, it seems that computers are slowly making progress in terms of matching the way our brains work – and the keyword here is “plasticity”. Yes sir, this term could very well be the key that enables the grey matter within our skill to learn, change and adapt through our experiences and observations. According to researchers over at MIT, they believe that they managed to have a quantum leap in replicating how the brain works – in the silicon format, of course, and that will naturally involve computers. Instead of a digital processor, MIT decided to make the creative jump by making a chip which is analog in nature. The reason behind this? Cells’ behavior in the brain make them difficult to mimic in terms of binary (ones and zeroes), so an analog processor would be far more suitable. Check out what the team at MIT has to say about their effort after the jump.

There are about 100 billion neurons in the brain, each of which forms synapses with many other neurons. A synapse is the gap between two neurons (known as the presynaptic and postsynaptic neurons). The presynaptic neuron releases neurotransmitters, such as glutamate and GABA, which bind to receptors on the postsynaptic cell membrane, activating ion channels. Opening and closing those channels changes the cell’s electrical potential. If the potential changes dramatically enough, the cell fires an electrical impulse called an action potential.

All of this synaptic activity depends on the ion channels, which control the flow of charged atoms such as sodium, potassium and calcium. Those channels are also key to two processes known as long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), which strengthen and weaken synapses, respectively.

Will we see a seemingly sentient being like Data from Star Trek down the road? Not quite yet, but we’re definitely on the right track.

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