This Circuit Board Is Closing The Computer-Human Brain Gap

The Neurogrid can simulate a million neurons and billions of synaptic connections, making it 9,000 times faster than a typical PC. Possible applications include prostheses that work nearly as fast as human thought.

What's the Latest Development?

In the quest to understand the power of the human brain, a team of Stanford bioengineers have taken a significant leap forward: Their Neurogrid, an iPad-sized circuit board containing 16 custom-designed chips, is 9,000 times faster and uses 40,000 times less power than a typical PC. In terms of brain function, it "can simulate 1 million neurons and billions of synaptic connections." Team leader Kwabena Boahen says that the next goal is to lower costs and create software that will allow more engineers and scientists to use the board. "Right now, you have to know how the brain works to program one of these," he says.

What's the Big Idea?

The Stanford team is one of several neuromorphic research teams worldwide that are developing a variety of ways to mimic brain functionality using hardware and software. Among many other applications, such systems could help make prosthetic limbs move as easily and smoothly as their natural counterparts. As impressive as the team's results have been so far, they still have a very long way to go to catch up to the real thing. In a paper for the Proceedings of the IEEE, Boahen writes, "The human brain, with 80,000 times more neurons than Neurogrid, consumes only three times as much power."

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