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Researchers Build ‘World’s Largest Simulation’ Of A Brain

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WATERLOO, Ont. (CBS Cleveland) – Canadian neuroscientists have developed what they are calling “the world’s largest simulation of a functioning brain,” which is reportedly capable of passing some parts of an IQ test.

According to a series of videos posted on the official website for Nengo, a software program developed specifically for creating simulations of neural systems, the model – called Spaun – essentially serves as a “large-scale, functioning brain.”

“[S]paun … is short for semantic pointer architecture unified network, in reference to the methods we have developed for building this type of model,” the video’s narrator explains. “Spaun is organized into sub-networks that mimic the structure and function of several neuroanatomical areas responsible for perception, action and cognitive control.”

The videos show Spaun copying drawings, silently counting, answering questions and completing other tasks.

The research has already appeared in the journal Science, and will be featured in “How to Build a Brain,” a book due out early next year, according to Nengo.

Lead neuroscientist Chris Eliasmith of the University of Waterloo in Ontario has been researching the book’s subject matter for years, the Vancouver Sun is reporting.

“Then I thought the only way people are going to believe me is if I demonstrate it,” he was quoted as saying to the paper.

He said that other existing large brain models, including the Blue Brain Project in Switzerland, do not have the ability to see or control limb function.

Eliasmith added, “Right now, very large-scale models of the brain don’t do anything.”

The reported difference between Spaun and other models of similar size is neuron simulation, the construct of which can emulate the functions of the thalamus, prefontal cortex, basal ganglia and other cognitive parts of the brain, the Sun learned.

According to the video, Spaun has 2.5 million neurons – a small number when compared to the almost 100 billion possessed by the real deal. And Eliasmith admitted to the Sun that Spaun is not on par with an actual brain.

Still, researchers on the project said in Science that, “[a]lthough simplified, the model captures many aspects of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and psychological behavior, which we demonstrate via eight diverse tasks.”

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