Computers Simulate 50 Percent of a Mouse Brain

A team ofresearchers from the IBM Almaden Research Lab and the University of Nevada successfully simulated the neural activity of half of a mouse brain on a BlueGene Lsupercomputer that had 4,096 processors, each one of which used 256MB ofmemory.

James Frye, Rajagopal Ananthanarayanan, and Dharmendra SModha set forth their methods in a provocatively titled research note "TowardsReal-Time, Mouse-Scale Cortical Simulations".


What is a mouse brain, that we should wish to move towardssimulating it? One half of a real mouse brain has about eight million neurons,each of which has up to eight thousand connections (synapses)with other neurons; it's a very complex system, with a staggering amount ofprocessing power.


The simulation was so computationally intensive that thesupercomputer could not even handle real-time mouse cogitation. The researchersran the simulation at one-tenth speed for only ten seconds.


The researchers say that the simulation does not model thereal structures of a mouse brain, although in smaller scale tests they had seen"biologically consistent dynamical properties" in the simulations.


Science fiction fans have been waiting for this one, becauseit proves that even the most fanciful ideas of sf writers can have value. Inhis 1962 short story Think Blue, Count Two, Cordwainer Smith wrote aboutan interstellar space craft that used an enormous light sail tomove from star to star over centuries. No human pilot could live long enough;the ship with its miles of sails was controlled by a computer. But whatcomputing device could possibly be found that would be powerful, small andlight - because every pound mattered?


Laminated mouse brains, of course.

"Thisbrain isn't frozen," said Tiga-belas indignantly. "It's beenlaminated. We stiffened it with celluprime and then we veneered it down, aboutseven thousand layers. Each one has plastic of at least two moleculesthickness. This mouse can't spoil. As a matter of fact, this mouse is going tokeep on thinking forever. He won't think much, unless we put the voltage onhim, but he'll think. And he can't spoil..."(Read more about the LaminatedMouse Brain Computer)

There are some scientists who are working on harnessing thepower of the living brain cells of small mammals. Dr. Yael Hanein of Tel Aviv University is working on BrainChips With Uniform Self-Organized Neurons. Dr. Thomas DeMarse has created a"brain in a dish" that can play games - see RatNeurons In A Dish Now Playing Flight Simulator. DeMarse's work was presagedby science fiction writer Peter Watts, who wrote about cultured brains (hecalled them headcheese) in his 1999 novel Starfish.


Don't miss these other science-fiction, science-fact mousebrain articles:


Read more about the simulation at the BBC.


(This Science Fiction in the News story used withpermission from - wherescience meets fiction.)





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Technovelgy Editor

Bill Christensen is the founder and editor of Technovelgy (opens in new tab), a website dedicated to cataloguing  the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers. Bill is a dedicated reader of science fiction with a passion about science and the history of ideas. For 10 years, he worked as writer creating technical documentation for large companies such as Ford, Unisys and Northern Telecom and currently works to found and maintain large websites. You can see Bill's latest project on Twitter (opens in new tab).