Professor Chris Eliasmith wins NSERC Polanyi Award

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chris Eliasmith shakes hands with Governor General of Canada

Chris Eliasmith, Professor in the Departments of Philosophy, Systems Design Engineering and Computer Science and Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Neuroscience has won the NSERC John C. Polanyi Award that honours an individual or team whose Canadian-based research has led to a recent outstanding advance in the natural sciences or engineering.

Read the UWaterloo homepage story.

Read the story from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC): 

Simulated brain signals next evolution in human brain research 

Dr. Chris Eliasmith has built a computer model of the human brain that makes human-like mistakes, has human-like accuracy, and takes human-like lengths of time to process information. The work could lead to better treatments for brain trauma and Alzheimer’s, as well as advances in artificial intelligence.

Chris EliasmithIts name is Spaun, and it’s more human-like than any computer today. Developed by University of Waterloo neuroscientist Dr. Eliasmith, Spaun (Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network) is the world’s largest simulation of a functioning brain. And unlike other computer brains, Spaun can mimic the human brain’s ability to see, remember and act.

This internationally acclaimed computer program’s 2.5 million virtual neurons and simulated eye and arm allow it to shift between diverse tasks – from copying human handwriting to finding hidden patterns in a list of numbers. Such tasks will help researchers understand how millions of neurons cooperate to cause behaviour.

Dr. Eliasmith has drawn on his experience in philosophy, neuroscience, systems design engineering and computer science to develop mathematical theories of the brain that will make it possible for scientists to study the behavioural consequences of brain damage in a safe, simulated environment, without damaging a real brain. It will provide new insights into how the brain actually works and potentially revolutionize the way we treat brain disorders.

Dr. Eliasmith’s work has been featured in the BBC, Popular Science, CBC, Wired, New York Times, Science News, Discovery, and Nature just to name a few. He’s also the author of a step-by-step guide, called ‘How to Build a Brain’, which teaches readers how to build their own computer model of the human brain.

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