ZURICH, Switzerland -- Despite a strong philosophical connection, computers and brains inhabit separate realms in research. IBM, though, believes the time is ripe to bring them together.
Through research projects expected to take a decade, Big Blue is using biological and manufactured forms of computing to learn about the other.
On the computing side, IBM is using the brain as a template for breakthrough designs such as the idea of using fluids both to cool the machine and to distribute electrical power. That could enable processing power that's densely packed into 3D volumes rather than spread out across flat 2D circuit boards with slow communication links.
And on the brain side, IBM is supplying computing equipment to a $1.3 billion European effort called the Human Brain Project
. It uses computers to simulate the actual workings of an entire brain -- a mouse's first, then a human's -- all the way down to the biochemical level of the neuron. Researchers will be able to tweak parameters as the simulation is running to try to figure out core mechanisms for conditions like Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and autism.