A chip multiprocessor for a large-scale neural simulator

  • Eustace Painkras

Student thesis: Phd


A Chip Multiprocessor for a Large-scale Neural SimulatorEustace PainkrasA thesis submitted to The University of Manchesterfor the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 17 December 2012The modelling and simulation of large-scale spiking neural networks in biologicalreal-time places very high demands on computational processing capabilities andcommunications infrastructure. These demands are difficult to satisfy even with powerfulgeneral-purpose high-performance computers. Taking advantage of the remarkableprogress in semiconductor technologies it is now possible to design and buildan application-driven platform to support large-scale spiking neural network simulations.This research investigates the design and implementation of a power-efficientchip multiprocessor (CMP) which constitutes the basic building block of a spikingneural network modelling and simulation platform. The neural modelling requirementsof many processing elements, high-fanout communications and local memoryare addressed in the design and implementation of the low-level modules in the designhierarchy as well as in the CMP. By focusing on a power-efficient design, the energyconsumption and related cost of SpiNNaker, the massively-parallel computation engine,are kept low compared with other state-of-the-art hardware neural simulators.The SpiNNaker CMP is composed of many simple power-efficient processors withsmall local memories, asynchronous networks-on-chip and numerous bespoke modulesspecifically designed to serve the demands of neural computation with a globallyasynchronous, locally synchronous (GALS) architecture.The SpiNNaker CMP, realised as part of this research, fulfills the demands of neuralsimulation in a power-efficient and scalable manner, with added fault-tolerancefeatures. The CMPs have, to date, been incorporated into three versions of SpiNNakersystem PCBs with up to 48 chips onboard. All chips on the PCBs are performing successfully, during both functional testing and their targeted role of neural simulation.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSteve Furber (Supervisor)


  • Chip multiprocessor, energy-efficiency, asynchronous interconnect, GALS methodology, network-on-chip, neuromorphic hardware, spiking neural networks

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