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APT Advanced Processor Technologies Research Group

Concurrent heterogeneous neural model simulation on real-time neuromimetic hardware

Alexander Rast, Francesco Galluppi, Sergio Davies, Luis A. Plana, Cameron Patterson, Thomas Sharp, David Lester and Steve Furber


Dedicated hardware is becoming increasingly essential to simulate emerging very-large-scale neural models. Equally, however, it needs to be able to support multiple models of the neural dynamics, possibly operating simultaneously within the same system. This may be necessary either to simulate large models with heterogeneous neural types, or to simplify simulation and analysis of detailed, complex models in a large simulation by isolating the new model to a small subpopulation of a larger overall network. The SpiNNaker neuromimetic chip is a dedicated neural processor able to support such heterogeneous simulations. Implementing these models on-chip uses an integrated library-based tool chain incorporating the emerging PyNN interface that allows a modeller to input a high-level description and use an automated process to generate an on-chip simulation. Simulations using both LIF and Izhikevich models demonstrate the ability of the SpiNNaker system to generate and simulate heterogeneous networks on-chip, while illustrating, through the network-scale effects of wavefront synchronisation and burst gating, methods that can provide effective behavioural abstractions for large-scale hardware modelling. SpiNNaker's asynchronous virtual architecture permits greater scope for model exploration, with scalable levels of functional and temporal abstraction, than conventional (or neuromorphic) computing platforms. The complete system illustrates a potential path to understanding the neural model of computation, by building (and breaking) neural models at various scales, connecting the blocks, then comparing them against the biology: computational cognitive neuroscience.