IBM Research – Haifa

has announced that top PhD students from the Sagol School of Neuroscience in Tel Aviv University will spend time working side by side with IBM researchers in Haifa to develop new models that offer insight into how the brain works.  The program includes joint research in the areas of machine learning, data mining, and cognitive computing.

As we see more and more of the world's activity being expressed digitally, the amount of Big Data is growing at an unprecedented rate. Most of this data is unstructured in the form of video, images, symbols, or natural language. This means we need new computing models to process and make sense of it, allowing people to make smarter decisions.

IBM researchers in Haifa and around the world are focusing on the field known as 'cognitive computing', a new area that delves into better understanding how the human brain works and architecting new computing paradigms that emulate the brain's efficiency. IBM researchers are using machine learning and analytics to bring computers to the next level of details in terms of understanding the concepts inside the text or the structure of the text.

"By working closely with industry leaders such as IBM, we can create a synergy that accelerates the development of new technologies in the area of brain science," noted Prof. Uri Ashery, head of Sagol School of Neuroscience. "This program offers a unique opportunity to strengthen the competence of our students by giving them hands-on experience working in the world's leading IT company."

The Sagol School of Neuroscience, which opened in 2011 at the Tel Aviv University, maintains close relationships with industry as part of its ongoing philosophy. "BrainBoost is a new initiative of the School for collaboration with the industry in specific tailored-designed joint projects that is launched these days" says Dr. Dana Bar-On, head of industry-academia corporations at the Sagol School of Neuroscience. The new internship program is open to all of its PhD students, who are participating in 3 rotations that can be performed at 7 different faculties, including 17 affiliated hospitals. The new initiative allows students to perform one of their rotations in the industry.

The first student joining this program will work with IBM researchers to build probabilistic graphic models, an approach used to develop reasoning algorithms that help explain how humans conceptualize data. The ultimate goal of the project is to gain a better understanding of dyslexia.

"By advancing research into cognitive computing and making computers more like biological systems that respond and react to what's going on around them, we can find new ways to help people make sense of all this data," said Moshe Levinger, senior manager of Analytics and Verificaiton at IBM Research - Haifa . "The internship program with the Sagol School of Neuroscience provides a wonderful opportunity for us to strengthen our close relationship with academia while training the next generation of cognitive computing scientists."

The first cognitive computer from IBM was Watson, which debuted in a televised Jeopardy! challenge in which it beat out the show’s two greatest champions. The challenge for Watson was to answer questions posed in natural language, including puns, synonyms and homonyms, slang, and jargon. Watson was able to answer the question using machine learning, statistical analysis and natural language processing. Newer generations of Watson are now being trained in cancer diagnosis to support healthcare professionals, and in customer service to help support representatives.

Just a few of the new cognitive computing projects being conceptualized at IBM Research – Haifa include research directions for more personalized education based on how people learn, studies into areas of the brain that control our emotional reactions such as anxiety and stress, and machine learning models that provide insight into mapping different electrical signals to specific regions of the brain.