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ASU advance could provide insight into human's ability to recognize patterns

and its use of neurons have a great advantage over computer memory in that they employ oscillatory memory systems, systems where the individual components can oscillate or freely change between states. In contrast, digital computer memories operate on a binary number system (1 or 0).

An important advance was made in this area in the 1980s by John Hopfield, a Caltech researcher at the time, who developed the "Hopfield network" to help understand how biological memory works. But the main drawback of the Hopfield network is that while it represents how biological memory works, it employs discrete state memory units while most biological units are oscillatory.

"Our work is the first demonstration of the possibility for oscillatory networks to have the same memory capacity as for the discrete-state Hopfield network," Lai said. "When the Hopfield network was invented, it was considered a revolutionary step in understanding how biological memory works.

"A difficulty with the Hopfield network is that it consists of units (or artificial neurons) with two discrete states," he added. "It is therefore desirable to study oscillatory networks but this has been a struggle, as all previous work shows that the capacities of these networks are very low compared with that of the Hopfield network. In a sense, our work helps solve this difficulty."

Lai said that the most immediate application for this research is in artificial intelligence, where researchers try to get computers to reason as a human would. He adds that this advance could possibly allow the development of artificial memory devices that would use oscillators, which are robust and secure.

This could mean robots, or other electro-mechanical devices controlled by an electronic "brain" that could recognize patterns and do some form of reasoning on the fly -- basically respond to a much wider range of unanticipated situations -- to perform its task. This would be a big step towards sm
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Contact: Skip Derra
skip.derra@asu.edu
480-965-4823
Arizona State University
10-May-2004


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