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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Computer Circuit Mimics Human Thinking Process

Scientists have developed an electronic circuit to mimics the wiring of the human brain in some ways f an achievement that could revolutionize computer science and improve understanding of how nature's most powerful processor works.

The circuit, built on a silicon chip as big as a fingernail, is far from the creations of science fiction. For one thing, it cannot learn the way the brain can. Researchers say it could bring better speech and object recognition by computers.

"This is a demonstration of what's possible when circuits compute in biological ways,'' said Rahul Sarpeshkar, a computer science professor working on the project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "We're still far away from building a brain.''

The findings were published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The project is the culmination of two decades of work using transistors and silicon to mimic the brain. It is the first time a circuit inspired by the brain's cortex has been created in hardware.

Traditional circuits work in one of two ways: digital, like computer processors, or analog, like radio amplifiers. Research suggests the brain can do digital and analog computing at once.

Someone watching a highway, for instance, can sort out distinct objects like a police cruiser and perceive changes in direction, speed and color. Traditional digital circuits in computers are not as efficient as the brain in perceptual tasks.

The latest research, done at Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs in New Jersey, combines digital and analog processing using artificial neurons that either excite or inhibit each other based on responses or feedback from other neurons.

"In one simultaneous circuit, both digital selection and analog amplification can co-exist,'' Sarpeshkar said.

Researchers applied simultaneous electrical currents to two artificial neurons in their circuit. It selected the stronger of the stimuli and suppressed its response to the weaker.