With 2.5 million simulated neurons, a team of researchers at the University of Waterloo have claimed the world’s largest functioning model of the brain. Called Spaun (short for Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network), the model “captures biological details of each neuron, including which neurotransmitters are used, how voltages are generated in the cell, and how they communicate. Spaun uses this network of neurons to process visual images to control an arm that draws Spaun’s answers to perceptual, cognitive and motor tasks.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Professor Chris Eliasmith, Director of the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at the Canadian university, says the model is the first to “get at how our brains can perform a wide variety of tasks in a flexible manner—how the brain coordinates the flow of information between different areas to exhibit complex behavior.” In addition to modelling how the brain makes decisions and executes tasks, Spaun could offer new insights into algorithms used for machine intelligence by suggesting new methods for controlling large flows of data needed to solve challenging cognitive tasks.