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Showing posts from April, 2009

"That which I cannot build, I do not truly understand" -- Richard Feynman

In 2006, IBM Research hosted a series of lectures on Cognitive Computing, featuring presentations from some well-known researchers in neuroscience and cognitive computing. Videos of the lectures and the presentations that were given are available at http://www.almaden.ibm.com/institute/2006/agenda.shtml. A word of caution, however: as one person in the audience commented in a Q&A session after a panel presentation, a number of the presentations were more 'neuromythology' (i.e. bravado, marketing, speculation and wishful thinking) than neuroscience. I did learn a number of things from a few of the presentations, however, and will try to summarize the good stuff and ignore the rest in the next few posts.

The presentation by Henry Markram, EPFL/BlueBrain: The Emergence of Intelligence in the Neocortical Microcircuit (video) describes the Blue Brain project that Markram was director of at the time, which aimed to create a computer model of the neurons in a cortical column usi…

Synchronicity - spatio-temporal spiking neuron models

The previous post began with a slogan pertaining to Hebbian learning that was coined by Donald Hebb: "Cells that fire together, wire together". A number of papers have been appearing in recent years that extend this idea further - that pulses that coincide are actually one of the most important ways that the brain transmits information. This concept appears to be a natural consequence of Hebbian learning: the brain adapts its network of synaptic connections by pruning those connections where the incoming signals are not correlated with other signals coming into the neuron and reinforces those where this type of coincidence does occur. It is doing this for a reason - to establish the 'right' set of connections and synaptic weights in order to associate one input or one set of inputs with another. This type of correlation between events has been proposed as being what knowledge itself is made of and as the basis for some of the key aspects of cognition and symbolic tho…