Memistor research currently being conducted by Professor Sergey Saveliev in the Department of Physics is exploring the potential for memistor-based brain implants to replace damaged parts of brain function with artificial memory.
Memistors are electrical resistors that can change their resistance. They can be used as a ‘switch’ by changing from high to low resistance. The exciting thing about memistors is that they can remember the conditions that resulted in the ‘switch’ and they therefore have the capacity to learn from past activity.
Taken one step further (or rather a massive leap into the future) it is hoped that memistors will be used to construct an artificial visual cortex, that part of the brain that processes visual information. At present brain implants are used to stimulate the brain’s electrical activity but there is potential in the research being undertaken by Professor Sergey Saveliev in Physics to get to the point where memristor-based implants can be used to restore sight to blind or visually impaired people.
Professor Savaliev’s research is being supported by a £1 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Using memistors to replace part of the brain function in a way that can both remember and learn from past actions is some distance in the future and will need Sergey’s research to be translated into clinical trials. There is much to be done before an established intervention that can be prescribed by doctors is a reality. Nonetheless, the ultimate goal is to replace damaged brain function with artificial memory in a way that has never been achieved before.