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IBM tries to computationally simulate a human brain

by Sylvie Barak on 19 November 2009, 14:04


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No Brainer

With a little help from the US military, IBM and a host of academic boffins are building a brain - or, more precisely, a supercomputer which acts like one.

At Supercomputing 2009 IBM revealed it and its partners had passed some important milestones and made significant strides in the quest to build a machine which can analyse and act on data in similar ways to which a human brain does.

Armed with a $16.1 million grant from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for phase one, brainiacs from IBM, Stanford, the University of Wisconsin, Cornell, Columbia University Medical Center and the University of California-Merced, have all been working on project SyNAPSE, or Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics.

It would appear they've accomplished something too, with news the computer has achieved its first near-real-time cortical simulation of the brain, going beyond previous simulations of a cat cortex.

The boffins have also come up with an algorithm, cleverly dubbed BlueMatter, which uses Blue Gene supercomputing architecture to map the connections between cortical and sub-cortical areas in the human brain. BlueMatter also allows the scientists to test their mathematical hypotheses about how brain structure impacts function.

The cortical simulator currently runs on the Dawn Blue Gene/P supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which boasts 147,456 processors and 144 terabytes of main memory.

Big Blue, however, is certainly thinking on its feet when it comes to the academic exercise, with the firm already planning on how to cash in on its big synthetic brain in the future as ever-growing streams of data continue to overwhelm global businesses.

IBM reckons a cognitive computer could really help businesses better monitor information flowing in and out, enabling them to make quick decisions which not only have context, but also the benefit of previous experience.