Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cognitive Computing: Building A Machine That Can Learn From Experience

Date:
December 23, 2008
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
Suppose you want to build a computer that operates like the brain of a mammal. How hard could it be? After all, there are supercomputers that can decode the human genome, play chess and calculate prime numbers out to 13 million digits.

Scientists are studying complex wiring of the brain to build the computer of the future, one that combines the brain's abilities for sensation, perception, action, interaction and cognition and its low power consumption and compact size. Understanding the process behind these seemingly effortless feats of the human brain and creating a computational theory based on it remains one of the biggest challenges for computer scientists.
Credit: Illustration by D. Modha, IBM

Suppose you want to build a computer that operates like the brain of a mammal. How hard could it be? After all, there are supercomputers that can decode the human genome, play chess and calculate prime numbers out to 13 million digits.

Related Articles


But University of Wisconsin-Madison research psychiatrist Giulio Tononi, who was recently selected to take part in the creation of a "cognitive computer," says the goal of building a computer as quick and flexible as a small mammalian brain is more daunting than it sounds.

Tononi, professor of psychiatry at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and an internationally known expert on consciousness, is part of a team of collaborators from top institutions who have been awarded a $4.9 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the first phase of DARPA's Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) project.

Tononi and scientists from Columbia University and IBM will work on the "software" for the thinking computer, while nanotechnology and supercomputing experts from Cornell, Stanford and the University of California-Merced will create the "hardware." Dharmendra Modha of IBM is the principal investigator.

“Every neuron in the brain knows that something has changed,” Tononi explains. “It tells the brain, ‘I got burned, and if you want to change, this is the time to do it.’’

Thus, a cat landing on a hot stovetop not only jumps off immediately, it learns not to do that again.

The idea is to create a computer capable of sorting through multiple streams of changing data, to look for patterns and make logical decisions.

There's another requirement: The finished cognitive computer should be as small as a the brain of a small mammal and use as little power as a 100-watt light bulb. It's a major challenge. But it's what our brains do every day.

"Our brains can do it, so we have proof that it is possible," says Tononi. "What our brains are good at is being flexible, learning from experience and adapting to different situations."

While the project will take its inspiration from the brain's architecture and function, Tononi says it isn't possible or even desirable to recreate the entire structure of the brain down to the level of the individual synapse.

"A lot of the work will be to determine what kinds of neurons are crucial and which ones we can do without," he says.

It all comes down to an understanding of what is necessary for teaching an artificial brain to reason and learn from experience.

"Value systems or reward systems are important aspects," he said. "Learning is crucial because it needs to learn from experience just like we do."

So a system modeled after the neurons that release neuromodulators could be important. For example, neurons in the brain stem flood the brain with a neurotransmitter during times of sudden stress, signaling the "fight-or flight" response.

"Every neuron in the brain knows that something has changed," Tononi explains. "It tells the brain, 'I got burned, and if you want to change, this is the time to do it.'"

Thus, a cat landing on a hot stovetop not only jumps off immediately, it learns not to do that again.

Tononi says the ideal artificial brain will need to be plastic, meaning it is capable of changing as it learns from experience. The design will likely convey information using electrical impulses modeled on the spiking neurons found in mammal brains. And advances in nanotechnology should allow a small artificial brain to contain as many artificial neurons as a small mammal brain.

It won't be an easy task, says Tononi, a veteran of earlier efforts to create cognitive computers. Even the brains of the smallest mammals are quite impressive when you consider what tasks they perform with a relatively small volume and energy input.

"I would be happy to create a mouse brain," Tononi says. "A mouse brain is quite remarkable. And from there, it shouldn't be too hard to scale up to a rat brain, and then a cat or monkey brain."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. The original article was written by Susan Lampert Smith. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Cognitive Computing: Building A Machine That Can Learn From Experience." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081221215537.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2008, December 23). Cognitive Computing: Building A Machine That Can Learn From Experience. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081221215537.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Cognitive Computing: Building A Machine That Can Learn From Experience." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081221215537.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins