New project aims to 'reverse-engineer' the brain

The goal is to make computers learn the way humans do

Teaching computers to learn the way we do is widely considered an important step toward better artificial intelligence, but it's hard to achieve without a good understanding of how we think. With that premise in mind, a new $US12 million effort launched on Wednesday with aims to "reverse-engineer" the human brain.

Led by Tai Sing Lee, a professor in Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Science Department and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), the five-year project seeks to unlock the secrets of neural circuitry and the brain's learning methods. Ultimately, the goal is to improve neural networks, the computational models often used for AI in applications including self-driving cars, automated trading, and facial and speech recognition.

"Today's neural nets use algorithms that were essentially developed in the early 1980s," Lee said. "Powerful as they are, they still aren't nearly as efficient or powerful as those used by the human brain."

A computer might need to be shown thousands of labeled examples in order to learn to recognize an object, for example, while a human would require only a handful.

Trying to figure out why that's so will use a technique called two-photon calcium imaging microscopy. Researchers will record the signaling of tens of thousands of individual neurons in mice as they process visual information.

"By incorporating molecular sensors to monitor neural activity in combination with sophisticated optical methods, it is now possible to simultaneously track the neural dynamics of most, if not all, of the neurons within a brain region," said team member Sandra Kuhlman, assistant professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon and the CNBC.

A massive data set will result, offering a detailed picture of how neurons in one region of the visual cortex behave, she added.

The project is funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) through its Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) research program, which is working to advance President Obama's BRAIN Initiative.

The CMU-led team will collaborate with other related projects and make multiple vast databases publicly available for research groups all over the world.

"The hope is that this knowledge will lead to the development of a new generation of machine-learning algorithms that will allow AI machines to learn without supervision and from a few examples, which are hallmarks of human intelligence," Lee said.

Another IARPA-funded project launched recently at Harvard shares a similar goal.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

3 skills you need to drive better collaboration

A study published in The Harvard Business Review found the time spent in collaborative activities at work has increased by over 50 per cent in the past two decades. Larger projects; complicated problems; tighter timeframes: These require bigger teams with specialised skillsets and diverse backgrounds, often dispersed globally.

Jen Jackson

CEO, Everyday Massive

Better the bank you know?

In 2018, only 21 per cent of customers believed that banks in general had their customers best interests at heart and behave ethically. Only 26 per cent believed that banks will keep their promises; views cemented further following the Hayne Financial Services Royal Commission.

Carolyn Pitt

Head of account management, Hulsbosch

What 15 years of emotional intelligence told us about youth media audiences

Taking people on an emotional journey through content is the most critical part of being a publisher. Which is why emotion lies at the heart of VICE Media.

Stephanie Winkler

Head of insights, VICE Asia-Pacific

This journey would identify all your future life aspects!

Maryann Humphrey

Open Colleges: one-to-one journeys is the goal

Read more

It's a pretty good idea. I think this integration is useful. Don't you agree?

Misty Stoll

Officeworks hops on voice interface bandwagon with Google Assistant integration

Read more

ok. so no RCS support? by the way, RCS is a lot bigger than 5G in terms of marketing and monetisation so y'all should be covering it.

DragoCubed

Optus goes for education with 5G network campaign

Read more

Many companies and individual merchants have shifted their major part of marketing to web marketing services Portland as it weighs fewer ...

Radiata Solutions

6 Ways to ramp up Social Media to Your Web Design

Read more

This is a unique experience! Will be interesting to talk to their managers.

Joyce Harris

​How Krispy Kreme revitalised its brand in a saturated market

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in