The mammalian central nervous system has enormous capabilities for information processing; analysis; and generation of appropriate outputs for a huge variety of task. It far surpasses current best efforts with man-made hardware and software. Learning in detail about how real neural networks function holds the promise of guiding efforts to improve man-made systems, and perhaps showing the way to revolutionary rather than evolutionary improvements. Yet doing this is a daunting task for in vivo systems, where huge numbers of neurons operate cooperatively, and observation of their individual behaviors in full detail is far beyond the capabilities of current technology. Understanding the behavior of small neural networks in vitro is a potentially valuable start, and it is proposed here to create a silicon-based system, called a "Neurochip", with unique capabilities for observing the behavior of every neuron of a small network in detail. Each neuron will be in an enclosure" which incorporates an intracellular electrode for recording and stimulation.
The experimental system is being constructed mainly from commercial components. The neurochip itself is being fabricated using novel methods, but ones, which can be duplicated, in any serious fabrication laboratory. The low temperature fabrication process for the neurochip can be done on a silicon wafer, which incorporates CMOS circuitry, so an on-board computer could be made part of the system.