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Supercomputer uses 1.4 million GB of RAM to calculate a single second of human brain activity

One of the world's largest supercomputers has accurately mapped one second's worth of activity in a human brain, in what researchers claim is the most accurate simulation to date.

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Scientists in Japan simulated one per cent of the neuronal network in the brain using the K computer, the fourth most powerful supercomputer in the world.

With 705,024 processor cores and 1.4 million GB of RAM at its disposal, the K computer took 40 minutes to model the data in a project designed to test the ability of the supercomputer and gauge the limits of brain simulation.

The project saw teams from the Japanese research group RIKEN and the German Forschungszentrum Jülich centre collaborate to use the Neural Simulation Technology tool, replicating a network of 1.73 billion nerve cells and 10.4 trillion synapses.

"If petascale computers like the K computer are capable of representing one per cent of the network of a human brain today, then we know that simulating the whole brain at the level of the individual nerve cell and its synapses will be possible with exascale computers - hopefully available within the next decade," one of the scientists, Markus Diesmann, told the Daily Telegraph (opens in new tab).

Exascale computing involves supercomputers that can perform a quintillion floating point operations per second, roughly the equivalent of what a human brain is capable of.

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However, experts predict that we are unlikely to see the arrival of exascale computers until at least 2020 (opens in new tab), with one supercomputing director betting $2,000 (£1,300) that the feat will not be achieved in the next six years.