Coincidences with the artificial axon

Action potentials are the electrical spikes generated by the neuron; they form the "language" of the brain. Now for the first time, the action potential has been taken outside the live nerve cell into a synthetic setting. An analogy is taking fire out of the forest and into the cave. The same fire, but now it’s yours!

Mr Vasquez worked with the artificial axon developed in the Zocchi Lab by former graduate student Amila Ariyaratne (now a postdoc at UCSB). It is a structure based on the biological components of the real neuron, but simplified and assembled in vitro. It supports action potentials. With the artificial axon, Mr Vasquez was able to reproduce the basic electrophysiology of nerve cells, including integrate-and-fire dynamics.

Future prospects are, on the one hand, the creation of a breadboard for electrophysiology research circumventing the use of real neurons. Equally tantalizing is the possibility of creating large networks of artificial axons: a “brain” of sorts.

[Hector G. Vasquez and Giovanni Zocchi, “Coincidences with the artificial axon”, EPL 119, 48003 (2017)].

You can read the paper online here.