A team of researchers from the University of Waterloo have built what the claim is the world’s largest simulation of a functioning brain. The purpose is to help scientists understand how the complex activity of the brain gives rise to the complex behavior exhibited by animals, including humans.
The model is called Spaun (Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network). It consists of 2.5 million simulated neurons. The model captures biological details of each neuron, including which neurotransmitters are used, how voltages are generated in the cell, and how they communicate.
Spaun uses this network of neurons to process visual images to control an arm that draws Spaun’s answers to perceptual, cognitive and motor tasks.
While the claim appears to be misleading, since IBM Research – Almaden actually recently simulated 530 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses on a supercomputer, the Waterloo researchers explain that “although impressive scaling has been achieved, no previous large-scale spiking neuron models have demonstrated how such simulations connect to a variety of specific observable behaviors,” the researchers say in a Science paper.