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Now, microchip that mimics human brain

July 23, 2013 13:07 IST

ChipIn a breakthrough, Swiss scientists have developed a novel new microchip that works just like a human brain and exhibits cognitive abilities.

No computer works as efficiently as the human brain -- so much so that building an artificial brain is the goal of many scientists, researchers said.

Researchers from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich in Switzerland have now made a "breakthrough" in this direction by understanding how to configure so-called neuromorphic chips to imitate the brain's information processing abilities in real-time.

They demonstrated this by building an artificial sensory processing system that exhibits cognitive abilities.

Most approaches in neuroinformatics are limited to the development of neural network models on conventional computers or aim to simulate complex nerve networks on supercomputers.

Few pursue the Zurich researchers' approach to develop electronic circuits that are comparable to a real brain in terms of size, speed, and energy consumption, researchers said.

"Our goal is to emulate the properties of biological neurons and synapses

directly on microchips," said professor Giacomo Indiveri.

The major challenge was to configure networks made of artificial, that is neuromorphic, neurons in such a way that they can perform particular tasks, which the researchers have now succeeded in doing, researchers said.

They developed a neuromorphic system that can carry out complex sensorimotor tasks in real time.

They demonstrate a task that requires a short-term memory and context-dependent decision-making -- typical traits that are necessary for cognitive tests.

Researchers combined neuromorphic neurons into networks that implemented neural processing modules equivalent to so-called ‘finite-state machines’ -- a mathematical concept to describe logical processes or computer programmes.

Behaviour can be formulated as a ‘finite-state machine’ and thus transferred to the neuromorphic hardware in an automated manner, researchers said.

"The network connectivity patterns closely resemble structures that are also found in mammalian brains," said Indiveri.

The scientists thus demonstrate for the first time how a real-time hardware neural-processing system where the user dictates the behaviour can be constructed.

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