Success in creating Artificial Intelligence would be the biggest event in human history                                                                Stephen Hawkings

We might be close to achieving this success. We may see an era where machines and computers will be at par with human intelligence. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a subject dealing with computational models that can think and act rationally.  It emerged as a field of Science six decades ago in 1956, when a group of scientists came to attend a workshop in Darthmouth college, New Hampshire. Allen Newell (CMU), Herbert Simon (CMU), John McCarthy (MIT), Marvin Minsky (MIT) and Arthur Samuel (IBM)  became the founders and pioneers of this new field. Since then AI has evolved and achieved milestones.

One of the upcoming ventures in this field is mapping the human brain by linking AI. The human brain and its neural networks have become an enigma for Neurologists and Scientists all around the world. In an effort to simulate the actual neural networks and functions; Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) were created. ANN’s are models that mimic the complex structure and functioning of the brain using Mathematical algorithms. They can recognize patterns of sound, images, speech and other digital information. This was a breakthrough technique which led to the idea of  Brain mapping i.e a virtual map of the neurons of the neocortex which is involved in thinking and behavioural changes in an individual. Brain mapping can be achieved through machine learning tools.

According to one of the recent studies published by Cell journal on July’17; AI has helped a scientist to form a Brain atlas of fruitflies. This study was conducted at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where they developed machine-vision to understand and quantify fly behaviour. They created brain maps of neural substrates responsible for locomotion and social behaviour. The automatic classifiers were trained using JAABA(Janelia Automatic Animal Behaviour Anotater), an interactive machine-learning tool (Kabra et al., 2013), to match the behaviour definitions.

In simpler words the JAABA was the AI, it was taught to classify behaviour and movements of a Drosophila (fruit fly). It then created an atlas of different parts of the brain which were active during certain movements and behaviours. This was displayed on a computer screen. The machine was shown video footages over 225 days and it was trained to classify 9000 different frames and behaviours. Now, this is big data classification, so , help of statistics was taken to analyse the data. This breakthrough can give us new insights on human brain mapping .

To know how the world is accepting AI and its impact on the scientific community, let us talk about another large scale project. The Human Brain Project, which started in October 2013, is a H2020 FET Flagship Project which strives to accelerate the fields of neuroscience, computing and brain-related medicine. This project extensively uses AI to boost systems and form a link between computational biology and neuroscience. It is no less than a that of a science-fiction movie! Experiments as exciting as Brain simulations, Silicon Brain(Brain on a chip), Virtual Robots connected to simulated human brains etc. are a part of this project. All these experiments make us want to believe that an artificial brain can make a machine work. It is close to becoming a reality.

In 2016, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, co-founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. founded a Neuro-technology company called Neuralink with eight others. The company aims to create a Brain-Computer Interface which will develop technology to integrate brains and computers as a way to fix medical problems and eventually supercharge human cognition. This also requires extensive and practical applications of AI.

A complete Human Brain-Map would help us understand a plethora of neurological disorders which have no cure so far like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Schizophrenia, Autism and clinical depression. It could also enlighten us about the processes like aging, learning and memory. The effects of drugs on the brain can also be elaborated through brain mapping, eventually leading to virtual drug designing. Linking AI will enhance these processes exponentially. Aptly said by Robert Sapolsky ,“Most excitingly, we are uncovering the brain-basis of our behaviours- normal, abnormal and in-between. We are mapping neurobiology of what makes us us.”

References:

  • Alice A. Robie, Jonathan Hirokawa, Austin W. Edwards, Lowell A. Umayam, Allen Lee, Mary L. Phillips, Gwyneth M. Card, Wyatt Korff, Gerald M. Rubin, Julie H. Simpson, Michael B. Reiser, Kristin Branson. Mapping the Neural Substrates of Behavior. Cell, 2017; 170 (2): 393 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.06.03
  • Jaaba.sourceforge.net
  • JAABA: interactive machine learning for automatic annotation of animal behaviour, Kabra, Robie, et al., Nature Methods, 2012
  • https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/en/
  • JAABA: An interactive machine learning system for biologists Kristin Branson, Mayank Kabra, Alice A. Robie, Marta Rivera-Alba, Steven Branson and Adam Hantman HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus Ashburn, VA