Report

A neural algorithm for a fundamental computing problem

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  10 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6364, pp. 793-796
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9868

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Fly brain inspires computing algorithm

Flies use an algorithmic neuronal strategy to sense and categorize odors. Dasgupta et al. applied insights from the fly system to come up with a solution to a computer science problem. On the basis of the algorithm that flies use to tag an odor and categorize similar ones, the authors generated a new solution to the nearest-neighbor search problem that underlies tasks such as searching for similar images on the web.

Science, this issue p. 793

Abstract

Similarity search—for example, identifying similar images in a database or similar documents on the web—is a fundamental computing problem faced by large-scale information retrieval systems. We discovered that the fruit fly olfactory circuit solves this problem with a variant of a computer science algorithm (called locality-sensitive hashing). The fly circuit assigns similar neural activity patterns to similar odors, so that behaviors learned from one odor can be applied when a similar odor is experienced. The fly algorithm, however, uses three computational strategies that depart from traditional approaches. These strategies can be translated to improve the performance of computational similarity searches. This perspective helps illuminate the logic supporting an important sensory function and provides a conceptually new algorithm for solving a fundamental computational problem.

View Full Text