Biologically-Inspired Massively Parallel Architectures - computing beyond a million processors

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Automatic Control and Systems Eng


The human brain remains as one of the great frontiers of science - how does this organ upon which we all depend so critically actually do its job? A great deal is known about the underlying technology - the neuron - and we can observe large-scale brain activity through techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging, but this knowledge barely starts to tell us how the brain works. Something is happening at the intermediate levels of processing that we have yet to begin to understand, but the essence of the brain's information processing function probably lies in these intermediate levels. To get at these middle layers requires that we build models of very large systems of spiking neurons, with structures inspired by the increasingly detailed findings of neuroscience, in order to investigate the emergent behaviours, adaptability and fault-tolerance of those systems.Our goal in this project is to deliver machines of unprecedented cost-effectiveness for this task, and to make them readily accessible to as wide a user base as possible. We will also explore the applicability of the unique architecture that has emerged from the pursuit of this goal to other important application domains.
Description The development of tools to enable neuro scientists to develop complex neurological models to run on a special purpose parallel computer to gain understanding of neurological behavior.
Exploitation Route The tools can be developed to integrate with other languages for neurological systems or applied to other parallel computer systems.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare

Description Citations indicate continued interest in this approach to neurological modelling.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare
Impact Types Cultural

Description BBSRC - The Digital Fruit Fly Brain
Amount £530,874 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/M025527/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
End 08/2018
Description EC - FP6/7
Amount € 4,181,071 (EUR)
Funding ID 610391 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2014 
End 12/2016
Description EPSRC -Green Brain: Computational Modelling of the Honeybee Brain
Amount £660,561 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/J019534/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2013 
End 08/2016
Description Kickstart - A Neural Microcircuit in Silco: Biologically Realistic Neuromorphic Engineering at Sheffield
Amount £53,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2012 
End 08/2012
Title Neurological simulation toolset 
Description Development of the DAMSON programming language for parallel description and emulation of neural systems Development of graphical front end to describe cell and networks Translation tools for neurological simulation using PyNN and Brahms languages Compiler, linker and loader for Spinnaker hardware 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Enables large system of neurons to be simulated on a PC, to run independently or to be integrated with other software tools, e.g. Brahms. Validation of previous neurological models run using Matlab or custom software Increased simulation performance using the SPinnaker hardware. 
Title SpinML 
Description Collection of neurological models to provide reference models for simulation. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Verification of existing models using by other research groups. Used by Green Brain project (EPSRC) and NoTremor project (EU). 
Title BIMPA toolset 
Description A set of tools to compiler, emulate, link and load neurological programs for the Spinnaker hardware. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact Provision of new software tools for the neuroscience community.