The project tested the device by stimulating the neurons and recording which ones fired using standard neuroscience techniques while tracking the signals coming from the chip.
The development of the interface and chip are crucial for this new technology, but problems remain. "Right now, we need to refine the way we stimulate the neurons, to avoid damaging them," says Vassanelli.
That's one of the problems the team hopes to tackle in a future project. Right now a proposal has been prepared which could tackle this and many other problems, including how to communicate with the neurons using genes.
"Genes are where memory come from, and without them you have no memory or computation. We want to explore a way to use genes to control the neuro-chip," says Vassanelli.
If NACHIP took the first crucial step towards a neuron-powered CPU, future work will pave the way for a genetically-powered hard disk.
"Europe is very well placed in this field of research, because it is essentially a multidisciplinary field, and we have multidisciplinary teams working on it," says Vassanelli. "We also have the infrastructure with institutes like the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, which is one of the world leaders in the field. Europe should be very proud of these resources. It gives us access to equipment and expertise that would be very hard to replicate elsewhere."