Proceedings of the IEEE

Neurogrid: A mixed-analog-digital multichip system for large-scale neural simulations

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In this paper, we describe the design of Neurogrid, a neuromorphic system for simulating large-scale neural models in real time. Neuromorphic systems realize the function of biological neural systems by emulating their structure. Designers of such systems face three major design choices: 1) whether to emulate the four neural elements - axonal arbor, synapse, dendritic tree, and soma - with dedicated or shared electronic circuits; 2) whether to implement these electronic circuits in an analog or digital manner; and 3) whether to interconnect arrays of these silicon neurons with a mesh or a tree network. The choices we made were: 1) we emulated all neural elements except the soma with shared electronic circuits; this choice maximized the number of synaptic connections; 2) we realized all electronic circuits except those for axonal arbors in an analog manner; this choice maximized energy efficiency; and 3) we interconnected neural arrays in a tree network; this choice maximized throughput. These three choices made it possible to simulate a million neurons with billions of synaptic connections in real time - for the first time - using 16 Neurocores integrated on a board that consumes three watts. © 2014 IEEE.