Spaun Neuroscientist creates a large scale model of a functioning brain

Canadian neuroscientist Chris Eliasmith with the University of Waterloo has successfully created a functioning large-scale model of a brain.

The device is called “Spaun”, which stands for Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network, and its design is based on the human brain.  The model has connections that work together like the prefrontal lobe.

An article in the November 30, 2012 issue of Science titled, "BUILDING THE HUMAN BRAIN”, by Eliasmith, et. al., goes over the brain model and how it functioned.

“In this work, we present a 2.5-million-neuron model of the brain (called “Spaun”) that bridges this gap by exhibiting many different behaviors, “ writes Eliasmith. “Although simplified, the model captures many aspects of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and psychological behavior, which we demonstrate via eight diverse tasks.”

The brain model took Eliasmith and his team with the University of Waterloo over a year to build, and it is capable of performing a few basic tasks.  The team made clear that while it does have a very limited capability to learn new things on its own, it does demonstrate how the brain’s neurons work, which includes biological signals that are being transmitted.  Currently the model brain can recognize a few things, has memory, and it is able to write down numbers.

The scientists that created Spaun are reaching out to other scientists in the U.K and the U.S. in an effort to help expand its capabilities.  Eliasmith says that in time this model may be scaled up, and it might lead the way to increase the machine’s intelligence.  Currently machines that simulate human interaction only operate by certain pre-programmed responses and only give the appearance they are thinking.  Eliasmith said that this design might also lead to a future of machines with more realistic human-like responses, or even a bona fide machine with real artificial intelligence that is self aware.