Computers that think like humans — my rediscovery of artificial neural networks
Nico Richter
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The implications are indeed exciting and frightening at the same time. I remember to have evangelized about the importance of bringing the theories of artificial neural networks and neuroscience together. Beginning of the new millennium was not the right time to do that, at least in Germany. Some years later, around 2007, I met the first scientist in my life who shared this point of view. Prof. Gustavo Deco from Barcelona. He works on the problem of how to model vast neural structures of the human brain with mathematical approximations of artificial neural networks. Because even most advanced machines today still have not enough computing power to simulate the whole brain on a neuron by neuron level. The other two researchers who had important influence on me were Prof. Karl Friston, Prof. Will Penny (UCL, UK) and Prof. Klaas Enno Stephan (ETH Zürich, Swizerland). Karl & Will developed a method to explore the interactions in networks of massive neural assemblies in the human brain by fMRI (Dynamic Causal Modelling). Klaas evangelized a lot in the psychological neuroscience community and supported the research about structural connectivity in the mammal brain. However still such methods were regarded as too complicated. Fortunately recently the tide has turned and explorations in brain connectivity seem to have arrived in the neuroscientific establishment. My guess is that deep learning, big data and the success of IT companies using such techniques had an impact on that. Well, I am out of this since some years. But from the perspective of a teacher and former researcher I am satisfied that my visions were finally correct. In fact now it speeds up much faster than I expected!