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Topic: [ncsm-members] Supercomputer models one second of human brain activity
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,025
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Supercomputer models one second of human brain activity
Posted: Jan 26, 2014 8:03 PM
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From The Telegraph [UK], Monday, January 13,
2014. See
[Also from SIGMA XI SmartBrief, Wednesday,
January 15, 2014.]
Supercomputer models one second of human brain activity

The most accurate simulation of the human brain
ever has been carried out, but a single second's
worth of activity took one of the world's largest
supercomputers 40 minutes to calculate

By Matthew Sparkes

The most accurate simulation of the human brain
to date has been carried out in a Japanese
supercomputer, with a single second's worth of
activity from just one per cent of the complex
organ taking one of the world's most powerful
supercomputers 40 minutes to calculate.

Researchers used the K computer in Japan,
currently the fourth most powerful in the world,
to simulate human brain activity. The computer
has 705,024 processor cores and 1.4 million GB of
RAM, but still took 40 minutes to crunch the data
for just one second of brain activity.

The project, a joint enterprise between Japanese
research group RIKEN, the Okinawa Institute of
Science and Technology Graduate University and
Forschungszentrum Jülich, an interdisciplinary
research center based in Germany, was the largest
neuronal network simulation to date.

It used the open-source Neural Simulation
Technology (NEST) tool to replicate a network
consisting of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected
by 10.4 trillion synapses.

While significant in size, the simulated network
represented just one per cent of the neuronal
network in the human brain. Rather than providing
new insight into the organ the project's main
goal was to test the limits of simulation
technology and the capabilities of the K computer.

Through their efforts, the researchers were able
to gather invaluable knowledge that will guide
the construction of new simulation software. In
addition, their achievement offers
neuroscientists a glimpse of what can be achieved
by using the next generation of computers -
so-called exascale computing.

Exascale computers are those which can carry out
a quintillion floating point operations per
second, which is an important milestone in
computing as it is thought to be the same power
as a human brain and therefore opens the door to
potential real-time simulation of the organ's

Currently there is no computer in existence that
powerful, but Intel has said that it aims to have
such a machine in operation by 2018.

"If petascale computers like the K computer are
capable of representing one per cent of the
network of a human brain today, then we know that
simulating the whole brain at the level of the
individual nerve cell and its synapses will be
possible with exascale computers - hopefully
available within the next decade," said one of
the scientists, Markus Diesmann.
SIDEBAR PHOTO: The simulation will help
scientists create more accurate models in
future Photo: Alamy
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu

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