Fascinating story in Spiegel Online about an experiment that connects together computer chips to replicate part of a rat brain:
A network of artificial nerves is growing in a Swiss supercomputer — meant to simulate a natural brain, cell-for-cell. The researchers at work on “Blue Brain” promise new insights into the sources of human consciousness.
This unprecedented piece of hardware consists of about 10,000 computer chips that act like real nerve cells. To simulate a natural brain, part of the cerebral cortex of young rats was painstakingly replicated in the computer, cell by cell, together with the branched tree-like structure of the synapses.
The stretch goal of this research is to understand the foundations of human consciousness and could ultimately result in an electronic replica of parts of the human brain. The research is facilitated by a 8,192 processor IBM Blue Gene at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland.