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Grid cells: From brains to technical implementation (GRIDMAP)
Start date: Mar 1, 2013, End date: Aug 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Since the invention of the first computers, their speed and computing power have grown exponentially but their fundamental operating principles remain essentially unchanged. Computers are still operating on one or a few central processing units, each with limited interconnectivity. Such processors, coupled with fast access to memory, are good for performing precisely instructed operations on large quantities of data very rapidly, but less effective in enabling the near instantaneous processing of the rapidly changing and ambiguous information that living interactive organisms are apparently so good at dealing with. With this in mind, it has been argued that computer technology would benefit from looking at how parallel computation is handled by the brain, nature ́s most advanced computer. Our recent discovery of a key mechanism for the neural mapping of space, using the metric encoded by 'grid cells', provides us with unprecedented direct-access to some of the fundamental operating principles of cortical circuits ‒ principles to which engineers need access for developing brain-inspired computing technologies. We shall use grid cells as an access ramp to understanding massively parallel-distributed spatial computations in sufficient detail to implement these basic working principles in computational architecture. Building on our recent breakthrough discovery, and guided by new brain experiments, computationally tractable algorithms will be tested in artificial navigating agents (robots), with the overall aim of identifying cardinal elements of future emerging technologies in the domain of spatial navigation and, more generally, in the development of massively parallel multi-core interactive computers. Because the expected long-term impacts are substantial, the project group will interact regularly with advisory panels on both IPR and man-machine ethics.

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