Memristors Empower Spiking Neurons With Stochasticity

Maruan Al-Shedivat, et al., "Memristors empower spiking neurons with stochasticity." IEEE journal on Emerging and Selected Topics in Circuits and Systems 5 (2), 2015, 242.

Abstract: Recent theoretical studies have shown that probabilistic spiking can be interpreted as learning and inference in cortical microcircuits. This interpretation creates new opportunities for building neuromorphic systems driven by probabilistic learning algorithms. However, such systems must have two crucial features: 1) the neurons should follow a specific behavioral model, and 2) stochastic spiking should be implemented efficiently for it to be scalable. This paper proposes a memristor-based stochastically spiking neuron that fulfills these requirements. First, the analytical model of the memristor is enhanced so it can capture the behavioral stochasticity consistent with experimentally observed phenomena. The switching behavior of the memristor model is demonstrated to be akin to the firing of the stochastic spike response neuron model, the primary building block for probabilistic algorithms in spiking neural networks. Furthermore, the paper proposes a neural soma circuit that utilizes the intrinsic nondeterminism of memristive switching for efficient spike generation. The simulations and analysis of the behavior of a single stochastic neuron and a winner-take-all network built of such neurons and trained on handwritten digits confirm that the circuit can be used for building probabilistic sampling and pattern adaptation machinery in spiking networks. The findings constitute an important step towards scalable and efficient probabilistic neuromorphic platforms.