Magazine article Science News

Model Brain Mimics Human Quirks: Computer Simulation Turns Decisions into Plans for Action

Magazine article Science News

Model Brain Mimics Human Quirks: Computer Simulation Turns Decisions into Plans for Action

Article excerpt

A new computer simulation of the brain can count, remember and gamble. And the system, called Spaun, performs these tasks in a way that's eerily similar to how people do.

Short for Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network, Spaun is a crude approximation of the human brain. But scientists hope that the program and efforts like it could be a proving ground to test new ideas.

What distinguishes Spaun from other attempts to construct a realistic model of the human brain is that it actually does something, says computational neuroscientist Christian Machens of the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal. At the end of an intense computational session, Spaun spits out instructions for a behavior, such as how to reproduce a number it's been shown.

Spaun was cobbled together from bits and pieces of knowledge gleaned from years of basic brain research. The behavior of 2.5 million nerve cells in parts of the brain important for vision, memory, reasoning and other tasks forms the basis of the new system, says Chris Eliasmith of the University of Waterloo in Canada, coauthor of the study, which appears in the Nov. …

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