This short film from GE’s Focus Forward profiles the work of Miguel Nicolelis, a Duke University neurobiology professor and director of the Walk Again Project. The project is an international consortium of researchers who are developing technology at the cutting edge of robotics in hopes of one day rendering wheelchairs obsolete.
No computer on Earth is more powerful or efficient than the human brain. Legions of computer scientists have been hard at work designing neuromorphic chips that mimic its information processing capabilities.
But, as it turns out, the brain packs even more computing power than previously thought. A study, published this week in Nature, found that dendrites, the branch-like outgrowths of neurons that connect to other neurons, aren’t the passive wiring scientists thought they were. Rather, they are actively involved in processing data.
“Suddenly, it’s as if the processing power of the brain is much greater than we had originally thought,” said Spencer Smith, the University of North Carolina School of Medicine assistant professor who led the study, in a statement. “Imagine you’re reverse-engineering a piece of alien technology, and what you thought was simple wiring turns out to be transistors that compute information. That’s what this finding is like. The implications are exciting to think about.”