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We present a novel log-domain silicon synapse designed for subthreshold analog operation that emulates common synaptic interactions found in biology. Our circuit models the dynamic gating of ion-channel conductances by emulating the processes of neurotransmitter release-reuptake and receptor binding-unbinding in a superposable fashion: Only a single circuit is required to model the entire population of synapses (of a given type) that a biological neuron receives. Unlike previous designs, which are strictly excitatory or inhibitory, our silicon synapse implements-for the first time in the log-domain-a programmable reversal potential (i.e., driving force). To demonstrate our design's scalability, we fabricated in 180nm CMOS an array of 64K silicon neurons, each with four independent superposable synapse circuits occupying 11.0×21.5 µm(2) apiece. After verifying that these synapses have the predicted effect on the neurons' spike rate, we explored a recurrent network where the synapses' reversal potentials are set near the neurons' threshold, acting as shunts. These shunting synapses synchronized neuronal spiking more robustly than nonshunting synapses, confirming that reversal potentials can have important network-level implications.


Ben V Benjamin, John V Arthur, Peiran Gao, Paul Merolla, Kwabena Boahen. A superposable silicon synapse with programmable reversal potential. Conference proceedings : ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference. 2012;2012:771-4

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PMID: 23366006

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