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MIT unveils computer chip that thinks like the human brain, Skynet just around the corner

Chris Barylick, @poingferret
November 15, 2011
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It may be a bit on the Uncanny Valley side of things to have a computer chip that can mimic the human brain's activity, but it's still undeniably cool. Over at MIT, researchers have unveiled a chip that mimics how the brain's neurons adapt to new information (a process known as plasticity) which could help in understanding assorted brain functions, including learning and memory. The silicon chip contains about 400 transistors and can simulate the activity of a single brain synapse -- the space between two neurons that allows information to flow from one to the other. Researchers anticipate this chip will help neuroscientists learn much more about how the brain works, and could also be used in neural prosthetic devices such as artificial retinas. Moving into the realm of "super cool things we could do with the chip," MIT's researchers have outlined plans to model specific neural functions, such as the visual processing system. Such systems could be much faster than digital computers and where it might take hours or days to simulate a simple brain circuit, the chip -- which functions on an analog method -- could be even faster than the biological system itself. In other news, the chip will gladly handle next week's grocery run, since it knows which foods are better for you than you ever could.

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