Understanding the brain with computer modelling

The biggest challenge in neuroscience research is understanding how complex cognitive abilities emerge from the brain, and how these capacities have evolved.

To address this we are creating a computer model of the insect brain. Insect brains may be small, but they are incredibly effective at equipping animals like ants and bees with the capacity to autonomously navigate large distances, solve complex optimality problems while foraging, and learn and remember features of their environment.

Our research examines how the insect brain is capable of so robustly solving these real-life problems. The small size of the insect brain makes it easier to study. Now we are working towards creating a functional simulation of the insect brain within a new biomimetic (life imitating) computer platform. The goal is to replicate insect learning, decision making and behavioural systems in a biologically-inspired computer.

The project spans cognition, neuroscience, mathematics, computer science and engineering. The outcomes will be a clear understanding of how simple animal minds think, learn, remember and make decisions.

It will establish the foundational work for understanding the much larger and more complex human brain. The project will also generate new approaches for machine learning and artificial intelligence. It has the potential to inspire a new generation of autonomous machines operating according to the principles of biological brains, which promises enormous applications for the information sciences, across many industries, and for everyday life.

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