Investigating the Brain’s Computational Paradigm
James E. Smith, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Understanding and implementing the brain’s cognitive paradigm is the one true grand challenge facing computer researchers. Not only are the brain’s cognitive capabilities far beyond those of conventional computers, its energy efficiency is truly remarkable. The brain’s neocortex is constructed of massively interconnected neurons that compute and communicate via voltage spikes, and a strong argument can be made that precise spike timing is an essential element of the paradigm. I will describe a small set of biologically plausible functional elements based on precise spike timing. Then, using these elements, I will illustrate some features of spike-based temporal cognition and how it differs from other brain-inspired approaches. This is only one person’s first step toward understanding the brain’s cognitive paradigm, and as such it is one of many divergent theories. However, it illustrates important aspects of this grand challenge research area and serves as a case study in the way a computer researcher can participate in addressing the challenge.