Scientists from Manchester are working on building a computer that is much more reliable than those that exist today
A new type of computer for simulating the complex interactions in the human brain is being built by British scientists. The computer, which costs a million pounds, known as the "Brain Box" will be built at the University of Manchester. This is the first computer of its kind in the world, which will be used to assist researchers when designing fail-safe electronic products.
Prof. Steve Furber, from the university's School of Computer Science, said his team hopes biology will help them build computer systems. "Our brain continues to work despite frequent failures in the neurons that make it up, and these immunity characteristics are of great interest to engineers seeking to build more reliable computers."
Initially, the scientists will connect a group of neurons, so that they work together and produce bursts of activity, which are called "spikes". These spikes will give signals similar to those given by the brain in the patterns seen in ECG (Electroencephalogram) devices. The brain box will use a large number of microprocessors to model the way networks of neurons interact.
"Our goal is to use the computer to understand more deeply how the brain works at the level of the spike patterns, and to see if biology can help us build computer systems that continue to function, despite the failure of their components," said Prof. Furber. "Another possibility provided by the computer is to help scientists understand how complex details that are visible to the eye are coded by the brain."