Nav: Home

Numenta publishes breakthrough theory for intelligence and cortical computation

January 14, 2019

REDWOOD CITY, CA -January 14, 2019 - Scientists at Numenta propose a major new theory about how the human brain works. While neuroscientists have amassed an enormous amount of detailed factual knowledge about the brain, there remains no unifying theory as to what intelligence is and how the brain produces it. In their paper, "A Framework for Intelligence and Cortical Function Based on Grid Cells in the Neocortex," Numenta researchers describe a broad framework for understanding what the neocortex does and how it works. The paper appears in the journal Frontiers in Neural Circuits.

The key insight described in the paper relates to a type of neuron called grid cells. Grid cells exist in an older part of the brain that learns maps of environments. As you move, grid cells keep track of the location of your body relative to these maps. Numenta researchers deduced that grid cells also must exist throughout the neocortex. These "cortical grid cells" track the locations of your sensors as they move relative to the objects in the world. The authors propose that cortical grid cells allow the neocortex to learn models of objects similar to how the older part of the brain learns maps of environments. The paper proposes how we learn the structure and behavior of objects based on locations and location spaces defined by cortical grid cells.

Numenta co-founder and lead author of the paper Jeff Hawkins commented, "The neocortex is composed of a repeating circuit that creates our perceptions, language, and high-level thoughts. We have identified a key piece of this circuit that had been missed, which led to a cascade of discoveries including a new interpretation of how the neocortex works and a new framework for all forms of intelligent thought."

Among discoveries highlighted, the paper also predicts the presence of a new type of neuron called "displacement cells," which partner with cortical grid cells to represent the positions of objects relative to each other. Displacement cells allow the neocortex to learn new objects as compositions of previously learned objects, an important form of generalization.

Co-author Subutai Ahmad elaborated, "Our new theory suggests the brain works differently than commonly believed. Instead of learning one big model of the world, the neocortex learns thousands of models that operate in parallel. We call this the 'Thousand Brains Theory of Intelligence'."

Scientists Comment on the New Paper

"Hawkins consistently concentrates on the big picture: the theoretical frameworks that might explain how the whole system functions. His secret power is to understand the data on the ground while adopting a 30,000 foot view -- and this is what allows the possibility of surmounting incrementalism to make real advances in neuroscience," said David Eagleman, Neuroscientist, adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Neosensory, Inc.

"Numenta's previous research on learning temporal sequences provided new insights into the role of dendrites, neurons and prediction. Their latest paper offers a novel unifying framework for understanding how the entire brain works," said Weinan Sun, a neuroscientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus. "It will impact the field of neuroscience as well as artificial intelligence."

Resources

Jeff Hawkins presented the new theory in a keynote address at the Human Brain Project Summit on October 15, 2018, in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Numenta also has written a companion piece designed to explain the framework in plain language, making it accessible to non-neuroscientists. Links to these and other resources can be found on Numenta's website https://numenta.com.

Implications for Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Numenta's new framework for how the brain creates intelligence could offer a roadmap for the future of AI. Many leading AI researchers have concluded that deep learning networks have severe limitations and that new approaches will be needed. Numenta's brain theory differs sharply from today's AI techniques. Numenta's belief is that the Thousand Brains Theory, which incorporates the ability to represent compositional structure, learn through movement, and integrate knowledge across sensory modalities, will prove to be the ultimate framework for artificial general intelligence and robotics.
-end-
About Numenta

Numenta scientists and engineers are working on one of humanity's grand challenges: understanding how the brain works. The company has a dual mission: to reverse-engineer the neocortex and to enable machine intelligence technology based on cortical theory. Co-founded in 2005 by technologist and scientist Jeff Hawkins, Numenta is developing a framework for how the neocortex works. The team tests their theories via simulation, mathematical analysis, and experimental partnerships. Numenta publishes its progress in open access scientific journals, makes all of its code public in an open source project, and licenses its intellectual property and technology for commercial purposes.

Krause Taylor Associates

Related Brain Articles:

Study describes changes to structural brain networks after radiotherapy for brain tumors
Researchers compared the thickness of brain cortex in patients with brain tumors before and after radiation therapy was applied and found significant dose-dependent changes in the structural properties of cortical neural networks, at both the local and global level.
Blue Brain team discovers a multi-dimensional universe in brain networks
Using a sophisticated type of mathematics in a way that it has never been used before in neuroscience, a team from the Blue Brain Project has uncovered a universe of multi-dimensional geometrical structures and spaces within the networks of the brain.
New brain mapping tool produces higher resolution data during brain surgery
Researchers have developed a new device to map the brain during surgery and distinguish between healthy and diseased tissues.
Newborn baby brain scans will help scientists track brain development
Scientists have today published ground-breaking scans of newborn babies' brains which researchers from all over the world can download and use to study how the human brain develops.
New test may quickly identify mild traumatic brain injury with underlying brain damage
A new test using peripheral vision reaction time could lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment of mild traumatic brain injury, often referred to as a concussion.
This is your brain on God: Spiritual experiences activate brain reward circuits
Religious and spiritual experiences activate the brain reward circuits in much the same way as love, sex, gambling, drugs and music, report researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
Brain scientists at TU Dresden examine brain networks during short-term task learning
'Practice makes perfect' is a common saying. We all have experienced that the initially effortful implementation of novel tasks is becoming rapidly easier and more fluent after only a few repetitions.
Balancing time & space in the brain: New model holds promise for predicting brain dynamics
A team of scientists has extended the balanced network model to provide deep and testable predictions linking brain circuits to brain activity.
New view of brain development: Striking differences between adult and newborn mouse brain
Spikes in neuronal activity in young mice do not spur corresponding boosts in blood flow -- a discovery that stands in stark contrast to the adult mouse brain.
Map of teenage brain provides evidence of link between antisocial behavior and brain development
The brains of teenagers with serious antisocial behavior problems differ significantly in structure to those of their peers, providing the clearest evidence to date that their behavior stems from changes in brain development in early life, according to new research led by the University of Cambridge and the University of Southampton, in collaboration with the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Italy.

Related Brain Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".