The chip, equipped with 5.4 billion transistors, is capable of simulating 1 million neurons and 256 million neural connections, or synapses.

In addition to mimicking the brain's processing by themselves, individual chips can be connected together like tiles, similar to how circuits are linked in the human brain.

The researchers have also used the ‘TrueNorth’ chip to perform a task that is very challenging for conventional computers, identifying people or objects in an image, says a report.

"We have not built a brain. What we have done is learn from the brain's anatomy and physiology," said study leader Dharmendra Modha, manager and lead researcher of the cognitive computing group at IBM Research Almaden in San Jose, California.

IBM's new chip architecture resembles that of a living brain. The chip is composed of computing cores that each contain 256 input lines, or 'axons' (the cablelike part of a nerve cell that transmits electrical signals) and 256 output lines, or 'neurons.'

Much like in a real brain, the artificial neurons only send signals, or spikes, when electrical charges reach a certain threshold.

The researchers connected more than 4,000 of these cores on a single chip, and tested its performance with a complex image-recognition task. The computer had to detect people, bicyclists, cars and other vehicles in a photo, and identify each object correctly.

The new chip is not only much more efficient than conventional computer chips, it also produces far less heat, the researchers said.

IBM created the chip as part of US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency's SyNAPSE programme (short for Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics).

The goal of this initiative is to build a computer that resembles the form and function of the mammalian brain, with intelligence similar to a cat or mouse.

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