Efficient Reward-Based Structural Plasticity on a SpiNNaker 2 Prototype

Yexin Yan, David Kappel, Felix Neumaerker, Johannes Partzsch, Bernhard Vogginger, Sebastian Hoeppner, Steve Furber, Wolfgang Maass, Robert Legenstein, Christian Mayr

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Advances in neuroscience uncover the mechanisms employed by the brain to efficiently solve complex learning tasks with very limited resources. However, the efficiency is often lost when one tries to port these findings to a silicon substrate, since brain-inspired algorithms often make extensive use of complex functions such as random number generators, that are expensive to compute on standard general purpose hardware. The prototype chip of the 2nd generation SpiNNaker system is designed to overcome this problem. Low-power ARM processors equipped with a random number generator and an exponential function accelerator enable the efficient execution of brain-inspired algorithms. We implement the recently introduced reward-based synaptic sampling model that employs structural plasticity to learn a function or task. The numerical simulation of the model requires to update the synapse variables in each time step including an explorative random term. To the best of our knowledge, this is the most complex synapse model implemented so far on the SpiNNaker system. By making efficient use of the hardware accelerators and numerical optimizations the computation time of one plasticity update is reduced by a factor of 2. This, combined with fitting the model into to the local SRAM, leads to 62% energy reduction compared to the case without accelerators and the use of external DRAM. The model implementation is integrated into the SpiNNaker software framework allowing for scalability onto larger systems. The hardware-software system presented in this work paves the way for power-efficient mobile and biomedical applications with biologically plausible brain-inspired algorithms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-591
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems
Issue number3
Early online date27 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Bayesian reinforcement learning
  • Brain modeling
  • Clocks
  • Computational modeling
  • exponential function accelerator
  • Generators
  • Hardware
  • neuromorphic computing
  • Prototypes
  • Random access memory
  • random number generator
  • SpiNNaker chip
  • structural plasticity
  • synaptic sampling


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