How to build a brain: From single Neurons to cognition
Professor Chris Eliasmith is the creator of SPAUN, a brain simulation that mimics our own brain structure and one of the most advanced models ever created by scientists to understand neural and cognitive function.
A central challenge for understanding complex behavior is to relate it to the complex processes in the brain. By building advanced brain simulations, scientists are trying to figure out how the human brain functions. However, most of these brain simulations focus on reproducing brain measurements and do not exhibit interesting behaviors that can be compared to human and animal behavior. Professor Chris Eliasmith and his colleagues of the University of Waterloo in Canada have created a model that mimics our own brain structure, known as Spaun (Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network). Unlike past brain simulations, Spaun is able to simulate complex behavior, and is capable of thinking, remembering, seeing, and interacting with its environment using a physically simulated arm. It even exhibits human-like flaws. Although far from a complete model of the brain, it is one of the most advanced models ever created by scientists to understand neural and cognitive function. Ultimately, such large-scale simulations might help unify our understanding of how the mind works.
Chris Eliasmith is Director of the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience at the University of Waterloo and holds a Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Neuroscience. He is jointly appointed in Philosophy and Systems Design Engineering, and cross-appointed to Computer Science. He has supervised students in each of these departments as well as Biology and Psychology. He has authored or coauthored two books and over 90 publications in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, and engineering venues. He has recently co-hosted a Discovery channel television show on emerging technologies.
Audio recording lecture Chris Eliasmith