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Biologically inspired electronics leads to higher fidelity

Boston University researchers base noise-shaping technology on neuronal networks

(Boston, Mass.) - The human brain is the most elegant of receivers. It can discern the notes of a piccolo from amongst the multitude of tones in a symphony orchestra and identify the familiar outlines of a friend in the midst of a crowd of strangers.

Realizing this extraordinary ability of the neuronal networks of the brain to separate signal from noise led a group of researchers at Boston University's Center for BioDynamics (CBD) and Department of Biomedical Engineering to develop a biologically inspired model that would improve the fidelity of electronic devices. The work was supported by a research gift from Ray Stata, chairman of Analog Devices and conducted in collaboration with Carson Chow (University of Pittsburgh), Wulfram Gerstner (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), and Robert W. Adams, (manager of audio development at Analog Devices, Inc. of Norwood, Mass.), who first suggested the concept. It is reported in the August 31 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Spectral noise-shaping, a process by which engineers improve the signal-to-noise ratio in electronic systems, is used in audio applications such as digital telephones, theater sound systems, and CD players. Traditional noise-shaping relies upon digital averaging techniques that are effective only in a narrow range of frequencies.

The techniques developed by Douglas Mar, James Collins, and their colleagues have significant advantages in that they can be effective over a much wider bandwidth, and can tolerate a greater amount of variation in the system components. The system is based on large networks of interconnected circuits, similar to neuronal networks in the brain. It is known that neurons fire in an often noisy and irregular pattern in the brain. Also, neurons often fire slowly in compa
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Contact: Joan Schwartz
joschwar@bu.edu
617-353-4626
Boston University
1-Sep-1999


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