Reverse Engineering the Mind with Brain Corp. CEO Eugene Izhikevich

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Neurosciences Institute, I was mostly doing 1, but a bit of 1 and 2. I did 3 on the largest possible scale.”

In laying out the BRAIN initiative last week, the White House said it plans to provide $110 million in federal funding for the initiative in fiscal year 2014, which begins in October. According to a White House fact sheet, $40 million would come from National Institutes of Health, $20 million from the National Science Foundation, and $50 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which provided some funding to Brain Corp. in 2010.

(Private research institutes also have promised to provide funding for the BRAIN Initiative, including $60 million from the Allen Institute for Brain Science, $30 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, $28 million from the Salk Institute, and $4 million from the Kavli Foundation. The total from both government and private sources is $232 million.)

Izhikevich agreed to answer a few questions about his work by e-mail. He would not discuss aspects of the technology under development at Brain Corp., or how it would be applied commercially.

Xconomy: How is the technology you’re developing conceptually different from advanced artificial intelligence and neural network systems in use today?

Eugene Izhikevich: We base our models on neuroscience, rather than on computer science. We try to mimic the neuro-computational processes that take place in the brain, as opposed to capturing logical or statistical computations as AI researchers do.

What we do could be classified as a “biological neural network” system. However, our models are much closer to biology (in dynamics and scale) compared with traditional neural nets. In particular, we use spiking neurons and … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • As a physician and neuroscientist, I am glad to see a renewed interest in the brain. However, this sounds all too familiar, assuming my memory is working correctly, to the Decade of the Brain push back in the 1990’s by former President George HW Bush. The 1990’s was an exciting time to be conducting brain research and we were all very proud of ourselves. However, despite the tremendous strides forward that were made during this time we were still far from understanding how the “normal’ brain functions and even farther from being able to layer a disease on top of the normal functioning to try and understand where and how to intervene in the various disease processes affecting the brain. This is evidenced by the high attrition rates of CNS drug discovery and development programs over the past 2 decades, and the dropping of neuroscience programs from the R&D portfolios of many pharmaceutical firms. I hope this new initiative has more substance and planning associated with it so that the public can derive some tangible benefits from this important endeavor.

  • I really like all the Izhikevich maths and his book weighs down my bag a lot.

    But he goes too far……No matter how huge the model, there is no involvement of mind in these mathematical constructs. What is being created is a description of a brain. Not a brain. The presupposed ‘elephant in the room’ is that computing a model of a brain is in all respects (first-person included) identical to the natural original. This is nonsense. Unsubstantiated, unaddressed, unrecognised presupposition. If this were the case, then a computed model of combustion (brain) would burn (be a brain).

    Maybe have a look at this:

    The first true artificial mind will have no computing in it whatever. Just like the first artificial flight had no computing in it.

    This is a 60 year old fallacy that has to stop. Sooner rather than later!