UK researchers are working on building a computer, which has the ability to mimic how nerve cells in the brain interact. They say this will enable engineers to build more ‘fault tolerant’ electronics.
Researchers from the University of Manchester have said that the computer, the first of its kind, will enable them to try and understand how the details of complex visual scenes are encoded by the brain.
Professor Steve Furber, from the University’s School of Computer Science, who is leading the one million pound project, said the main aim was to use the computer to understand the brain better.
“Our brains keep working despite frequent failures of their component neurons, and this ‘fault-tolerant’ characteristic is of great interest to engineers who wish to make computers more reliable. Our aim is to use the computer to understand better how the brain works at the level of spike patterns, and to see if biology can help us see how to build computer systems that continue functioning despite failures,” he said.
He added the computer would be designed with the aim of modelling large numbers of neurons in real time and to track patterns of neural spikes as they occur in the brain.
It will be built using large numbers of simple microprocessors designed to interact like the networks of neurons in the brain. The aim would be to place dozens of microprocessors on a single silicon chip, reducing the cost and power consumption of the computer, he said. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is funding the project.