Simulating the human brain’s networks
Chips based on ARM processor technology are being linked together by scientists at the University of Manchester to simulate the networks of billions of interacting, highly-connected neurons in the brain.
They will form the system architecture for a massive computer, called SpiNNaker (Spiking Neural Network architecture), which aims to map the brain’s individual functions.
The scientists said the key challenge is developing and understanding the information processing of the brain, and the extremely high connectivity of neurons. There are 100 billion neurons with more than 1,000 trillion synapses in the human brain.
In the SpiNNaker system, the simulated neurons emit spikes that are relayed as tiny electrical signals. Each impulse is modelled in SpiNNaker as a “packet” of data, a scaled down version of the way the Internet carries information.
A data packet is sent to all connected neurons. Neurons are represented by small simple equations that are solved in real time by software running on the ARM processors.
There will be up to one million ARM processors (technology used in most of the world’s mobile phones) in the final SpiNNaker machine, but the scientists point out that this will enable them to create models of only up to 1% of the human brain.
Ref.: Steve Furber, Andrew Brown, Biologically-Inspired Massively-Parallel Architectures
– computing beyond a million processors, University of Manchester