Computer simulates half a mouse brain


Smarter than the average computer: Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons and NASA.
Smarter than the average computer: Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons and NASA.
Three US scientists have successfully simulated a mouse’s brain (or at least half of a mouse’s brain) using IBM’s BlueGene L supercomputer .

You probably think something as small as half a mouse’s brain wouldn’t take much computer power to simulate it, but you’d be wrong.

James Frye, Rajagopal Ananthanarayanan, and Dharmendra S Modha, from the IBM Almaden Research Lab and the University of Nevada detailed the process in a short paper entitled "Towards Real-Time, Mouse-Scale Cortical Simulations", and reported that the model puts “tremendous constraints on computation, communication and memory capacity of any computer platform”.

Half a typical mouse’s brain contains more than 8 million neurons connected with over 8,000 synapses. The BlueGene L supercomputer used 4096 processors each of which used 256MB of memory to create half a virtual mouse brain that had 8,000 neurons with up to 6,300 synapses. And despite all that massive computing power, the complex simulation only lasted 10 seconds at one-tenth the speed in real life.

In other, smaller tests the research trio reported seeing activity with characteristics of thought patterns observed in actual mouse brains, as well as nerves in the simulated synapses firing in the same way they do in nature.

Of course this is only the beginning. For future tests the researchers hope to speed up the simulations and make them more neurobiologically realistic.

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BBC Web Story

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