JUN 26, 2020 9:47 AM PDT

Artificial and Natural Neurons Communicate Using Dopamine

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers from Stanford University have shown that artificial neurons can communicate with biological neurons with dopamine- a neurotransmitter known for signaling reward. 

A different group of researchers previously managed to link two silicon-based artificial neurons with a biological one using electricity. Although demonstrative of hybrid computing, the study only shed light on electrical signaling, as opposed to chemical signaling. 

The new study fills in this gap. For it, the researchers started with two neurons- one a biological cell that produces dopamine; the other an artificial cell made of both biocompatible and electrical-conducting materials. They found that when activated, the biological dopamine-producing neuron was able to interact with the artificial one, changing how it behaves.

After confirming communications between the biological and artificial neurons in this way, the researchers performed some tests to see if the hybrid circuit could ‘learn.’ 

On the first attempt, they found that the burst of dopamine from the biological cell was able to alter the artificial neuron’s conductance for some time. Per the adage: ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together,’ the team also found that activating the biological neuron with chemicals, in turn, changed the artificial neuron’s conductance in a way that mimicked learning. 

Then examining the hybrid synapse with an electron microscope, the researchers found that the cells were able to recycle dopamine within similar timescales to the human brain. They also saw that the neurons seemed to mimic a learning rule known as ‘spike learning’- a machine learning method inspired by how the brain works. 

Although a significant step toward artificial-biological hybrid circuits, the researchers warn that artificial neurons are still unable to completely relay information from a single hit of dopamine, and thus do not yet accurately mimic biological neurons. Further research is also needed to know whether these hybrid synapses can work within a living brain. 


Sources: Singularity Hub, Nature

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
JUL 16, 2021
Coronavirus
Focusing on the Cause of Neurological Symptoms of COVID-19
JUL 16, 2021
Focusing on the Cause of Neurological Symptoms of COVID-19
We now know that COVID-19 can cause a range of symptoms. Some of these problems are taking months to clear up in patient ...
JUL 27, 2021
Neuroscience
What is Neurotheology to a Neuroscientist?
JUL 27, 2021
What is Neurotheology to a Neuroscientist?
Neurotheology is the interdisciplinary science of religious and spiritual experience
JUL 29, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Calcium Seems to Control Blood Flow in the Brain
JUL 29, 2021
Calcium Seems to Control Blood Flow in the Brain
The brain is packed with neurons that are constantly in need of power, but there isn't really anywhere to store energy. ...
AUG 29, 2021
Cancer
Researchers Bioprint Deadly Brain Tumor with 3D Printer
AUG 29, 2021
Researchers Bioprint Deadly Brain Tumor with 3D Printer
Researchers have managed to print an entire active and viable glioblastoma tumor- the deadliest form of brain cancer- us ...
AUG 30, 2021
Health & Medicine
For the love of java: Researchers find association, not causation, between excessive coffee consumption, brain size, and dementia
AUG 30, 2021
For the love of java: Researchers find association, not causation, between excessive coffee consumption, brain size, and dementia
Researchers find association, not causation, between excessive coffee consumption, brain size, and dementia
AUG 31, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
A drug-free rehabilitation system for stroke survivors.
AUG 31, 2021
A drug-free rehabilitation system for stroke survivors.
     Last week, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a first-of-its-kind&nb ...
Loading Comments...