MrSeb writes: "A group of neuroscientists and software engineers at the University of Waterloo in Canada are claiming to have built the world’s most complex, large-scale model simulation of the human brain. The simulated brain, which runs on a supercomputer, has a digital eye which it uses for visual input, a robotic arm that it uses to draw its responses — and it can pass the basic elements of an IQ test. The brain, called Spaun (Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network), consists of 2.5 million simulated neurons, allowing it to perform eight different tasks. These tasks range from copy drawing to counting, to question answering and fluid reasoning. The neurons are broken down into a bunch of simulated cranial subsystems, including the prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, and thalamus, which are wired together with simulated neurons that very accurately mimic the wiring of a real human brain. The basic idea is that these subsystems behave very similarly to a real brain: Visual input is processed by the thalamus, the data is stored in the neurons, and then the basal ganglia fires off a task to a part of the cortex that’s designed to handle that task. As for the ultimate end goal, Eliasmith is excited about Spaun’s prospects. “It lets us understand how the brain, the biological substrate, and behavior relate. That’s important for all sorts of health applications,” he says. In testing he has “killed” synthetic neurons and watched performance degrade, which could provide an interesting insight into natural aging and degenerative disorders."
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