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Comment Re:Hardware Requirement: 24 GB RAM (Score 1) 101

Yeah, I wouldn't call our Java implementation "naive" per se, but we are definitely looking into implementing other simulation back-ends and decoupling the Nengo GUI from the simulation core. I'll look more seriously into C and OpenCL -- does it run on both ATI and NVidia cards? We have mostly NVidia cards here.

Comment Re:Hardware Requirement: 24 GB RAM (Score 1) 101

Hmm... that's an excellent point! We have a few of hot loops that run over and over and over again. But, because of that we know what needs to be optimized and we've tried to do so. It's true though that some optimizations we've tried haven't worked out well, so the JVM's JIT compiler might be what's saving us most of the time. Personally I'd like to write it all in RPython and have it make a JIT for us ;)

Comment Re:Hardware Requirement: 24 GB RAM (Score 4, Informative) 101

Hey, we're definitely thinking about this! In fact, the Java version can run on a GPU. And we're in the process of making a fast Python version based on theano. Unfortunately, even with all of these speedups, we're still talking about lots of neurons and lots of computation.

However, there are plenty of smaller scale models that you can run in Nengo to get a sense of what's going on in the larger Spaun model! The tutorials are a good place to start.

Comment Re:Emulated behaviour is amazing (Score 3, Interesting) 101

I mean, we would be ecstatic to have people contribute in any way! That could even just mean learning the framework and the software and using it in your own research. We have lots of tutorials, and we'd be happy to help if you want to make your own models. The software itself is pretty good, but it's academic software, and certainly we'd welcome anyone's contributions to the software! We're pretty responsive, either at any of our emails, or by making a github issue if you need any assistance.

Unfortunately, I don't know if we have a lot of "low hanging fruit", things that we need done but are just too lazy to do so. Though I'm sure we could come up with some of those tasks if desired, as we're certainly lazy.

Comment Re:paywall / links to summary (Score 5, Informative) 101

Hey, I'm still figuring out the copyright rules as to what I can post, but there are plenty of things already available:

This paper on Spaun specifically
Some background on how Spaun is built
Some background (with code) on the theoretical framework used
The actual code for Spaun

I'll let you know if a pre-print goes up!

We do use Python scripting to interface with our simulator, Nengo. See the last link for the actual script we use for Spaun.

Submission + - Spaun: A large-scale functional brain model (

dj_tla writes: "A team of Canadian researchers have created a state-of-the-art brain model that can see, remember, think about, and write numbers. The model has just been discussed in a Science article entitled "A Large-Scale Model of the Functioning Brain". There have been several popular press articles, and there are videos of the model in action.

Nature quotes Eugene Izhikevich, chairman of Brain Corporation, as saying, “Until now, the race was who could get a human-sized brain simulation running, regardless of what behaviours and functions such simulation exhibits. From now on, the race is more [about] who can get the most biological functions and animal-like behaviours. So far, Spaun is the winner.”

Full disclosure: I am a member of the team that created Spaun."


Submission + - PLoS has launched a Science Blogging Network (

Scientiste writes: The Public Library of Science has launched a science blogging network to "compete" with, featuring an exciting and diverse collection of bloggers such as John Rennie, the former editor of Scientific American, Pulitzer prize-winning science writer, Deborah Blum, and hot young physicist, Sarah Kavassalis, to name a few.

Comment Good research, bad conclusion (Score 4, Interesting) 259

This is an interesting study, but the conclusion it appears to draw is erroneous at best.

Take this quote, from one of the study's investigators: "During sleep, our neurons are busy doing very complicated processing, including, this study shows, generating sleep spindles to protect us from being awoken from noises in the environment."

EEG is such a broad average that it tells us very little about what the brain is doing, just like looking at the NASDAQ doesn't tell you very much about how one company or a group of companies are doing. To suggest that our brain is "generating sleep spindles" is myopic; sleep spindles are a symptom of what the brain is doing during sleep: replaying memories temporarily held in the hippocampus and consolidating then into cortex.

The correlation between producing lots of "sleep spindles" and having relatively good memory makes sense in this light, as does being hard to wake up during sleep, as a brain that's attending to memory consolidation won't be as sensitive to external stimuli (just like when you're concentrating while conscious). But to suggest that sleep spindles function to protect us from noises in the environment makes no sense at all. Evolutionarily, it's more advantageous to wake up when you are being attacked, or are otherwise in peril. If anything, this research would suggest some kind of limiting factor to the overall intelligence of a society that deals with the environment in that way.

Comment Re:Happens in Research Too (Score 1) 449

I'm in the same boat as iOdin. A lot of the work my lab produces is based on a certain framework we've developed. To make any sense out of our publications, we have to give a cursory description of the framework, even though we will obviously cite a suitable source as well. Even in a short paper this amounts to a few paragraphs; rewording them for each paper is no fun.

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