“Neurogrid: Emulating a Million Neurons in the Cortex”
Dr. Kwabena Boahen
I will present a proposal for Neurogrid, a specialized hardware platform that will perform cortex-scale emulations while offering software-like flexibility. Recent breakthroughs in brain mapping present an unprecedented opportunity to understand how the brain works, with profound implications for society. To interpret these richly growing observations, we have to build models—the only way to test our understanding—since building a real brain out of biological parts is currently infeasible. Neurogrid will emulate (simulate in real-time) one million neurons connected by six billion synapses with Analog VLSI techniques, matching the performance of a one-megawatt, 500-teraflop supercomputer while consuming less than one watt. Neurogrid will provide the programmability required to implement various models, replicate experimental manipulations (and controls), and elucidate mechanisms by augmenting Analog VLSI with Digital VLSI, a mixed-mode approach that combines the best of both worlds. Realizing programmability without sacrificing scale or real-time operation will make it possible to replicate tasks laboratory animals perform in biologically realistic models for the first time, which my lab plans to pursue in close collaboration with neurophysiologists.
Bio: Kwabena A. Boahen is an Associate Professor in the Bioengineering Department at Stanford University. He is a bioengineer who is using silicon integrated circuits to emulate the way neurons compute, linking the seemingly disparate fields of electronics and computer science with neurobiology and medicine. His contributions to the field of neuromorphic engineering include a silicon retina that could be used to give the blind sight and a self-organizing chip that emulates the way the developing brain wires itself up. His scholarship is widely recognized, with over sixty publications to his name, including a cover story in the May 2005 issue of Scientific American. He has received several distinguished honors, including a Fellowship from the Packard Foundation in 1999, a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation in 2001, a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research in 2002, and the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award in 2006. Professor Boahen’s BS and MSE degrees are in Electrical and Computer Engineering, from the Johns Hopkins University (both earned in 1989), where he made Tau Beta Kappa. His PhD degree is in Computation and Neural Systems, from the California Institute of Technology (1997), where he held a Sloan Fellowship for Theoretical Neurobiology. From 1997 to 2005, he was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the first Skirkanich Term Junior Chair.