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 CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

3 ways customer data can increase online sales conversion

Data has been an increasingly critical factor in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing and business operations.

James Bennett

Chief experience officer, Kalido

Our sharing future is both terrifying and exciting

Discussing the future in a realistic fashion is often a disappointing prospect. For all the talk of hoverboards, jetpacks and lightsabers changing the way we do things, the reality tends to end up being something as mundane as a slightly cheaper way to get around the city.

Jason Dooris

CEO and founder, Atomic 212

Queue experiences that are distinctive, memorable and shareable

Customer service that’s quick, easy and convenient has been shown to boost customer satisfaction. So it’s an odd juxtaposition that customer queues have become a sharable customer experience.

Hi James, shouldn't marketers also be focusing on collecting and utilizing up to date first-party profiling data on customers so that mes...

Tom

3 ways customer data can increase online sales conversion

Read more

Wouldn't reconnecting with younger consumers be in direct contravention of the code on alcohol advertising?

Tim Palmer

Vodka Cruiser reconnects with younger consumers via category-first Facebook Live campaign

Read more

Thanks for the article Jennifer, you raise some interesting points. The supermarket and shopping centre examples particularly struck a c...

Jill Brennan

Why marketers should take note of social robots

Read more

Winning the retail game is really tricky at this point in time. Many retailers have declared themselves as bankrupt. But yes harnessing t...

Vanessa.M.Magers

​Bricks and clicks: Balancing digital and physical to win the retail game

Read more

Excellent article, Thank you.

Steve Beards

How Aprimo hopes to help marketers tackle distribution of content, funds and data

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in