Boffins cure brain computer headaches

mybrainhurtsUC San Diego scientists have constructed a new kind of computer that stores information and processes it in the same place and thus solved some of the bottlenecks of conventional computing.

The “memcomputer” can solve a problem involving a large dataset more quickly than conventional computers, while using far less energy.

The machine is currently in bits as a proof of concept, but can be improved into a general-purpose computer.

Researchers led by Massimiliano Di Ventra, a UCSD professor of physics said that memcomputers could equal or surpass the potential of quantum computers, they say, but because they don’t rely on exotic quantum effects are far more easily constructed.

Di Ventra said that besides solving extremely complex problems involving huge amounts of data, memcomputers can potentially teach us more about how the brain operates,. While the brain is often compared to a computer, the two are organized and operate much differently.

According to the journal Science Advances which we get for the draw in the quantum dot puzzles, conventional computers store data in one location designated for memory, and transfer it to processors located elsewhere to computer answers. But the human brain combines storage and processing in one place, treating these as one combined entity.

Memcomputers combine the storage and processing functions in a “collective state,” this complex signal actually contains the problem solution, which in theory can be easily extracted. The prototype demonstrates this can be done.

Studying this fault-tolerant property could teach us more about how brains work, and how they break down, Di Ventra said.

“From memcomputing we can learn for instance the ability of the network of interconnected memprocessors in bypassing broken connections, namely how robust is such a network to damage of its units while still able to compute specific tasks,” Di Ventra said. “This could possibly translate in our understanding of the maximum amount of damage to neurons done by degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, before we lose specific functions.”

The study represents a significant advance in the field, said Yuriy V. Pershin, another researcher who has collaborated with Di Ventra and Traversa, but did not take part in this study.

There is still a long way to go, the prototype memcomputer is limited because it is analog, not digital. Analog computing is especially susceptible to interference from noise, which limits the ability to scale up the numbers of memprocessors in one computer.