Supercomputer Simulates One Second of Human Brain

Brain is the most complex biological computing system and performs almost every activity with jet speed and precision. Despite the numerous advancements in the interaction of technology and science, there is no machine that functions as swift as a brain. Nevertheless, the recent experiment by the researchers of Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University in Japan and Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany is a milestone in the history of producing human brain simulations by a computer.

The team of researchers from Japan and Germany have managed to produce the most accurate simulation of a human brain in Japan’s computer. The single second worth of activity in the human brain from just one percent of the complex organ was able to be produced in 40 minutes by the world’s fourth largest computer.

The computer used is the K computer in Japan to simulate human brain activity. The computer has 705,024 processor cores and 1.4 million GB of RAM, but still took 40 minutes to crunch the data for just one second of brain activity. The open-source Neural Simulation Technology (NEST) tool is used to replicate a network consisting of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses.

Though the number of cells replicated is quite huge, it is just a minute part of the neural cell network that constitutes a human brain. The setup requires a huge amount of powering to produce a simulation of the human brain, given the complexity involved. While running, the simulation ate up about 1PB of system memory as each synapse was modeled individually. The main purpose of this project was to test the limits of simulation rather than providing new insights into the organ.

This project has provided immense knowledge to the scientists and paved a way for the construction of new simulation software. Moreover, it offers the neuroscientists a glimpse of what the next-generation computers- Exascale computers, can do.

One of the scientists, Markus Diesmann held the view that, “If petascale computers like the K computer are capable of representing one per cent of the network of a human brain today, then we know that simulating the whole brain at the level of the individual nerve cell and its synapses will be possible with exascale computers – hopefully available within the next decade.”

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Shobith MAKAM Written by: