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Uploading from the Almaden Institute on Cognitive Computing


I’m sitting next to Jeff Hawkins who just posted a white paper (PDF) on the Hierarchical Temporal Memory framework. Hawkins writes: “The brain does not ‘compute’ the answers to problems; it retrieves the answers from memory… The entire cortex is a memory system. It isn’t a computer at all.”


(aside: I blogged a bit about the developmental trajectory of electronics recapitulating the evolutionary history of the brain. Specifically, both are saturating with a memory-centric architecture.)


In this photo, you see Henry Markram from EPFL showing complex neuronal visualizations and movies from the BlueBrain project. This is a single neuron with a color-coded map of synaptic connections to other neurons.


Some notes:


No brain wiring is the same, even in clones. Structural topology and functional spike train variation is immense. There are over 300 types of neurons in neocortex that are structurally and electrically different. And they each have ~200 ion channels from a pool of 20-40 variations. Looking at possible neuronal connections, it’s an all:all structure that is in place. But only 10% of the connections will grow a synapse.


Nobelist Gerald Edelman: “Every perception is an act of creation. Every memory is an act of imagination.”


He also referenced Posit Science founder and UCSF Prof. Merzenich’s research on rapid recruitment of neurons, a form of neural plasticity. If you cut the nerve to a thumb, the cortical sensory map changes within 1 hour.


“We are at a remarkable juncture… We are at the brink of understanding what had only been in domain of philosophers.”

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Taken on May 10, 2006