An article in this weeks The Economist Magazine credits Evangelos Elftheriou at IBM's research laboratory in Zurich with building an artifical version of a neuron(for computers).
"Neurons are the spindly, highly interconnected cells that do most of the heavy lifting in brains. ...Neurons are pattern-recognition devices. An individual neuron can be connected to dozens or hundreds of others, and can pass eletrical signals to and fro, If it receives a sufficient number of strong enough signals from its bretheren over a short enough span of time, it will "fire', sending a jolt of electricity to other neurons connected to it, possibly causing them to fire as well, If the incoming signals are too weak, or too infrequent, it will remain quiescent."
"Neurons are unpredictable. Fluctuations within the cell mean a given input will not always produce the same output."