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In Search For Intelligence, a Silicon Brain Twitches


Blue Brain is a supercomputer-powered software model designed to closely simulate the activity of a rat's neocortical column (NCC) in the hope of gaining insights into the emergence of human intelligence so that a virtual human brain can be realized in 10 years. "We're building the brain from the bottom up, but in silicon," says Henry Markram, who is leading the Blue Brain project at Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.

The rat NCC was researched to collect genetic, chemical, and electrical information that was applied to the creation of millions of software equations, and then Markram recorded real-world data directly from rat gray matter to assess the software model's accuracy.  When Blue Brain is stimulated, the IBM-supplied supercomputer calculates and displays the neuronal connections in three-dimensional images. The simulation has exhibited some unusual behavior, such as spontaneous synchronized flashing of artificial neurons in response to stimuli.

Markram speculates that if a rat brain simulation could mimic the activity of an actual rat brain accurately enough, the same model could be used as a framework for developing a software model of the human brain. However, California Institute of Technology researcher Christof Koch says Markram's experiment is limited by a lack of algorithms.

From The Wall Street Journal
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


 

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