A Silicon Retina that Reproduces Signals in the Optic Nerve
Prosthetic devices may someday be used to treat lesions of the central nervous system. Similar to neural circuits, these prosthetic devices should adapt their properties over time, independent of external control. Here we describe an artificial retina, constructed in silicon using single-transistor synaptic primitives, with two forms of locally controlled adaptation: luminance adaptation and contrast gain control. Both forms of adaptation rely on local modulation of synaptic strength, thus meeting the criteria of internal control. Our device is the first to reproduce the responses of the four major ganglion cell types that drive visual cortex, producing 3600 spiking outputs in total. We demonstrate how the responses of our device’s ganglion cells compare to those measured from the mammalian retina. Replicating the retina’s synaptic organization in our chip made it possible to perform these computations using a hundred times less energy than a microprocessor—and to match the mammalian retina in size and weight. With this level of efficiency and autonomy, it is now possible to develop fully implantable intraocular prostheses.