Dharmendra Modha says that 'cognitive computing' is a part of the research project that will bring together neurobiologists, computer and materials scientists and psychologists. He is of the opinion that the the technology resulting from the team's efforts might prove useful for large-scale data analysis, decision making or even image recognition. "The mind has an amazing ability to integrate ambiguous information across the senses, and it can effortlessly create the categories of time, space, object, and interrelationship from the sensory data," the BBC quoted Modha, who is heading the collaboration, as saying.
"There are no computers that can even remotely approach the remarkable feats the mind performs.
"The key idea of cognitive computing is to engineer mind-like intelligent machines by reverse engineering the structure, dynamics, function and behaviour of the brain," he added.
Five American universities are participating in the ambitious project, aimed at integrating what is known from real biological systems with the results of supercomputer simulations of neurons. The researchers will later aim to produce the first electronic system that behaves as the simulations do.
Modha has revealed that the team's longer-term goal is to create a system with the level of complexity of a cat's brain.
He points out that past studies on simple animals have helped scientists learn much about the inner workings of neurons, and the synapses that connect them, resulting in "wiring diagrams" for simple brains.
He believes that supercomputing can simulate brains up to the complexity of small mammals, using the knowledge from the biological research.
Last year, a research team led by Modha had used the BlueGene supercomputer to simulate a mouse's brain, comprising 55m neurons and some half a trillion synapses.
"But the real challenge is then to manifest what will be learned from future simulations into real electronic devices - nanotechnology," he said.
Modha says that the effort requirement of experts from various disciplines for this project shows how unprecedented it is in its scope.
He admits that the goals are more than ambitious.
"We are going not just for a homerun, but for a homerun with the bases loaded," he says.