Stochastic IMT (insulator-metal-transition) neurons: An interplay of thermal and threshold noise at bifurcation

16 Aug 2017  ·  Abhinav Parihar, Matthew Jerry, Suman Datta, Arijit Raychowdhury ·

Artificial neural networks can harness stochasticity in multiple ways to enable a vast class of computationally powerful models. Electronic implementation of such stochastic networks is currently limited to addition of algorithmic noise to digital machines which is inherently inefficient; albeit recent efforts to harness physical noise in devices for stochasticity have shown promise... To succeed in fabricating electronic neuromorphic networks we need experimental evidence of devices with measurable and controllable stochasticity which is complemented with the development of reliable statistical models of such observed stochasticity. Current research literature has sparse evidence of the former and a complete lack of the latter. This motivates the current article where we demonstrate a stochastic neuron using an insulator-metal-transition (IMT) device, based on electrically induced phase-transition, in series with a tunable resistance. We show that an IMT neuron has dynamics similar to a piecewise linear FitzHugh-Nagumo (FHN) neuron and incorporates all characteristics of a spiking neuron in the device phenomena. We experimentally demonstrate spontaneous stochastic spiking along with electrically controllable firing probabilities using Vanadium Dioxide (VO$_2$) based IMT neurons which show a sigmoid-like transfer function. The stochastic spiking is explained by two noise sources - thermal noise and threshold fluctuations, which act as precursors of bifurcation. As such, the IMT neuron is modeled as an Ornstein-Uhlenbeck (OU) process with a fluctuating boundary resulting in transfer curves that closely match experiments. As one of the first comprehensive studies of a stochastic neuron hardware and its statistical properties, this article would enable efficient implementation of a large class of neuro-mimetic networks and algorithms. read more

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