Archive for January 24th, 2007

An exciting talk on “Brain, Computers & Intelligence” by Mriganka Sur of MIT

January 24, 2007

As part of TechVista (Annual Research Symposium of Microsoft Research India) on January 23, 2007 Professor Mriganka Sur, Head, Brain & Cognitive Sciences at MIT talked of the need to understand brain functioning which may fundamentally change the way we build computers (human beings serving computers than computers serving computers genuinely). He talked of the past 20 years where brain research is getting a glimpse of the 100 million neurons and a potential 100 trillion “synapse’s” and addressing the twin questions of

    How is the brain wired?
    How does the wiring create brain function?

Professor Sur talked repeatedly of the importance of specificity and plasticity and their interplay; he also postulated that brain wiring happens at the very early stage of human embryo formation and the networks are constantly shaped by the environment – interaction with the world and other human beings. It was an exciting talk by any standards.

It was interesting to get a feel of the tools and technologies including “gene chip” and the “next generation imaging”. It was an insight to note that half the brain is devoted to “vision”. The study of the brain over two centuries, some amazing insights of the early pioneers (though some of them were found to be wrong later), some key contributions of brain research leading to Nobel Prizes and Professor Sur’s feeling that there will be more Nobel Prizes for this area convincingly brought out the excitement of this area.

Hopefully some of the younger audience including several IIIT-B students will be inspired to devote their life to pursuing this exciting area.

It is nice to note that Professor Sur studied B Tech (EE) from IIT Kanpur and Professor Prabhu who is amongst us (IIIT-B faculty member) had taught him.