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Stanford researchers develop artificial synapse that works with living cells

A professor and graduate student work on a circuit board
Jun 15 2020
Fellow, Research, Stanford

In 2017, Stanford University researchers presented a new device that mimics the brain’s efficient and low-energy neural learning process. It was an artificial version of a synapse – the gap across which neurotransmitters travel to communicate between neurons – made from organic materials. In 2019, the researchers assembled nine of their artificial synapses together in an array, showing that they could be simultaneously programmed to mimic the parallel operation of the brain.

Now, in a paper published June 15 in Nature Materials, they have tested the first biohybrid version of their artificial synapse and demonstrated that it can communicate with living cells. Future technologies stemming from this device could function by responding directly to chemical signals from the brain. The research was conducted in collaboration with researchers at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology – IIT) in Naples, Italy, and at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Co-lead author Scott Keene is a 2015 Stanford Graduate Fellow.