Bielefeld researchers develop software for simulating the human brain

Bielefeld University has become a new partner in the ‘Human Brain’ project financed by the European Union. The aim of this EU flagship project is to integrate all previous findings on the human brain. New computer-based models should then be used to produce a simulation of the human brain. Computer scientists and engineers engaged in the project in Bielefeld are working on models that simulate aspects of the human nervous system in special computers.

Standard computers are not designed in a suitable way for running an artificial version of the human brain. One reason is that they function according to different principles. Therefore, researchers working on the ‘Human Brain’ project are developing their own special hardware with which they will be able to perform efficient computations of the complex procedures needed for brain simulations.

The Bielefeld researchers are specializing in models of associative memory. This term describes the human ability to remember important things by linking them up – that is, associating them – with an event. This distinguishes human memory from computer memories that categorize data rather than linking them together. ‘Associative memory models play an important role in cognitive research,’ says Professor Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Rückert. He heads the Cognitronics and Sensor Systems Work Group at Bielefeld University’s Faculty of Technology that also belongs to the university’s Cognitive Interaction Technology - Center of Excellence (CITEC). In the EU project, his work group is responsible for research on the architecture of neural associative memory based on the concept of ‘spiking neural networks’. The model draws on the observation that one nerve cell stimulates another nerve cell by firing a weak surge of electric current towards it. Researchers call these weak electric surges ‘spikes’. It is thanks to these spikes that information can be processed in the brain.

‘The hardware systems being used in the EU project generally require a great deal of energy. Our goal is to program the hardware in such a way that the brain simulation will use resources as efficiently as possible,’ says Professor Rückert.

Alongside the Bielefeld research team, two further German institutions have joined the ‘Human Brain’ project: the FZI Research Center for Information Technology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. As just announced by the EU Commission in Brussels, the three institutions together with 29 other organizations from further EU nations have now become the new partners in the ‘Human Brain’ project and will receive a total of 8.3 million Euros for their research.

The ‘Human Brain’ project was launched in 2013 as part of the 7th EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) with a budget of 1.19 billion Euros. This major initiative will run for 10 years and receive further funding from this year onward within the new EU Research and Innovation programme ‘Horizon 2020’.

Further information is available online at:
www.humanbrainproject.eu

Contact:
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Rückert, Bielefeld University
Faculty of Technology
Telephone: 0521 106-12050
Email: rueckert@techfak.uni-bielefeld.de