To vigorously advance the goals of the BRAIN Initiative, there was a detailed recommendation to invest $400 million per year over the next five years (FY16-20), and continues at $500 million per year subsequently (FY21-25) by the NIH. A sustained, decade-long commitment at this level will attract talented scientists from multiple fields to the interdisciplinary collaborations that are essential to the BRAIN Initiative and its ambitious goals.
The National Institutes of Health announced today its first wave of investments totaling $46 million in fiscal year 14 funds to support the goals of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.
Last year, President Obama launched the BRAIN Initiative as a large-scale effort to equip researchers with fundamental insights necessary for treating a wide variety of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. Four federal agencies — NIH, the National Science Foundation, the Food and Drug Administration and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — stepped up to the “grand challenge” and committed more than $110 million to the Initiative for fiscal year 2014.
Full human brain emulation has many challenges.
There are about 40 billion neurons in the human cortex and thalamus, with an average axon fan-out to 10,000 synapses, firing at an average of 10 times per second, then AER (Address Event Representation )networking would need to deliver about 400 trillion packets per second, with at least 40 billino originating packets per second. To put this in perspective, it is recently estimated that the total U.S. user Internet traffic averages about 800 million packets per second. Admittedly, the AER packets are fewer bytes, and over short distances, but the routing overhead is comparable, and the routing tables are much bigger, given 40 billion destinations. Even if the firing rate is significantly lower than our estimate, the total traffic is staggering when taken as a whole.
Luckily, the actual number of inter-chip packets might be much smaller. There is evidence that interconnectivity is much higher within a cortical column and minicolumn. With an estimated 10,000 neurons in a cortical column, cortical columns could fit entirely on planned second-generation chips for projects such as SpiNNaker and FACETS. If 99% of connectivity is within a column, this reduces the inter-column and inter-chip bandwidth 100 times, and earlier-mentioned research on a “Rent exponent” by Bassett et al. suggests that locality of connectivity may extend beyond cortical columns.
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