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Sebastian Billaudelle, Yannik Stradmann, Korbinian Schreiber, Benjamin Cramer, Andreas Baumbach, Dominik Dold, Julian Göltz, Akos F. Kungl, Timo C. Wunderlich, Andreas Hartel, Eric Müller, Oliver Breitwieser, Christian Mauch, Mitja Kleider, Andreas Grübl, David Stöckel, Christian Pehle, Arthur Heimbrecht, Philipp Spilger, Gerd Kiene, Vitali Karasenko, Walter Senn, Mihai A. Petrovici, Johannes Schemmel, Karlheinz Meier

We present first experimental results on the novel BrainScaleS-2 neuromorphic architecture based on an analog neuro-synaptic core and augmented by embedded microprocessors for complex plasticity and experiment control. The high acceleration factor of 1000 compared to biological dynamics enables the execution of computationally expensive tasks, by allowing the fast emulation of long-duration experiments or rapid iteration over many consecutive trials. The flexibility of our architecture is demonstrated in a suite of five distinct experiments, which emphasize different aspects of the BrainScaleS-2 system.

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Timo C. Wunderlich, Akos F. Kungl, Eric Müller, Johannes Schemmel, Mihai Petrovici

Future developments in artificial intelligence will profit from the existence of novel, non-traditional substrates for brain-inspired computing. Neuromorphic computers aim to provide such a substrate that reproduces the brain's capabilities in terms of adaptive, low-power information processing. We present results from a prototype chip of the BrainScaleS-2 mixed-signal neuromorphic system that adopts a physical-model approach with a 1000-fold acceleration of spiking neural network dynamics relative to biological real time. Using the embedded plasticity processor, we both simulate the Pong arcade video game and implement a local plasticity rule that enables reinforcement learning, allowing the on-chip neural network to learn to play the game. The experiment demonstrates key aspects of the employed approach, such as accelerated and flexible learning, high energy efficiency and resilience to noise.

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Timo Wunderlich, Akos F. Kungl, Eric Müller, Andreas Hartel, Yannik Stradmann, Syed Ahmed Aamir, Andreas Grübl, Arthur Heimbrecht, Korbinian Schreiber, David Stöckel, Christian Pehle, Sebastian Billaudelle, Gerd Kiene, Christian Mauch, Johannes Schemmel, Karlheinz Meier, Mihai A. Petrovici

Neuromorphic devices represent an attempt to mimic aspects of the brain's architecture and dynamics with the aim of replicating its hallmark functional capabilities in terms of computational power, robust learning and energy efficiency. We employ a single-chip prototype of the BrainScaleS 2 neuromorphic system to implement a proof-of-concept demonstration of reward-modulated spike-timing-dependent plasticity in a spiking network that learns to play the Pong video game by smooth pursuit. This system combines an electronic mixed-signal substrate for emulating neuron and synapse dynamics with an embedded digital processor for on-chip learning, which in this work also serves to simulate the virtual environment and learning agent. The analog emulation of neuronal membrane dynamics enables a 1000-fold acceleration with respect to biological real-time, with the entire chip operating on a power budget of 57mW. Compared to an equivalent simulation using state-of-the-art software, the on-chip emulation is at least one order of magnitude faster and three orders of magnitude more energy-efficient. We demonstrate how on-chip learning can mitigate the effects of fixed-pattern noise, which is unavoidable in analog substrates, while making use of temporal variability for action exploration. Learning compensates imperfections of the physical substrate, as manifested in neuronal parameter variability, by adapting synaptic weights to match respective excitability of individual neurons.

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Dominik Dold, Ilja Bytschok, Akos F. Kungl, Andreas Baumbach, Oliver Breitwieser, Walter Senn, Johannes Schemmel, Karlheinz Meier, Mihai A. Petrovici

An increasing body of evidence suggests that the trial-to-trial variability of spiking activity in the brain is not mere noise, but rather the reflection of a sampling-based encoding scheme for probabilistic computing. Since the precise statistical properties of neural activity are important in this context, many models assume an ad-hoc source of well-behaved, explicit noise, either on the input or on the output side of single neuron dynamics, most often assuming an independent Poisson process in either case. However, these assumptions are somewhat problematic: neighboring neurons tend to share receptive fields, rendering both their input and their output correlated; at the same time, neurons are known to behave largely deterministically, as a function of their membrane potential and conductance. We suggest that spiking neural networks may, in fact, have no need for noise to perform sampling-based Bayesian inference. We study analytically the effect of auto- and cross-correlations in functionally Bayesian spiking networks and demonstrate how their effect translates to synaptic interaction strengths, rendering them controllable through synaptic plasticity. This allows even small ensembles of interconnected deterministic spiking networks to simultaneously and co-dependently shape their output activity through learning, enabling them to perform complex Bayesian computation without any need for noise, which we demonstrate in silico, both in classical simulation and in neuromorphic emulation. These results close a gap between the abstract models and the biology of functionally Bayesian spiking networks, effectively reducing the architectural constraints imposed on physical neural substrates required to perform probabilistic computing, be they biological or artificial.

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Akos F. Kungl, Sebastian Schmitt, Johann Klähn, Paul Müller, Andreas Baumbach, Dominik Dold, Alexander Kugele, Nico Gürtler, Luziwei Leng, Eric Müller, Christoph Koke, Mitja Kleider, Christian Mauch, Oliver Breitwieser, Maurice Güttler, Dan Husmann, Kai Husmann, Joscha Ilmberger, Andreas Hartel, Vitali Karasenko, Andreas Grübl, Johannes Schemmel, Karlheinz Meier, Mihai A. Petrovici

The traditional von Neumann computer architecture faces serious obstacles, both in terms of miniaturization and in terms of heat production, with increasing performance. Artificial neural (neuromorphic) substrates represent an alternative approach to tackle this challenge. A special subset of these systems follow the principle of "physical modeling" as they directly use the physical properties of the underlying substrate to realize computation with analog components. While these systems are potentially faster and/or more energy efficient than conventional computers, they require robust models that can cope with their inherent limitations in terms of controllability and range of parameters. A natural source of inspiration for robust models is neuroscience as the brain faces similar challenges. It has been recently suggested that sampling with the spiking dynamics of neurons is potentially suitable both as a generative and a discriminative model for artificial neural substrates. In this work we present the implementation of sampling with leaky integrate-and-fire neurons on the BrainScaleS physical model system. We prove the sampling property of the network and demonstrate its applicability to high-dimensional datasets. The required stochasticity is provided by a spiking random network on the same substrate. This allows the system to run in a self-contained fashion without external stochastic input from the host environment. The implementation provides a basis as a building block in large-scale biologically relevant emulations, as a fast approximate sampler or as a framework to realize on-chip learning on (future generations of) accelerated spiking neuromorphic hardware. Our work contributes to the development of robust computation on physical model systems.

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