NEST is a widely used tool to simulate biological spiking neural networks. Here we explain the improvements, guided by a mathematical model of memory consumption, that enable us to exploit for the first time the computational power of the K supercomputer for neuroscience. Multi-threaded components for wiring and simulation combine 8 cores per MPI process to achieve excellent scaling. K is capable of simulating networks corresponding to a brain area with 108 neurons and 1012 synapses in the worst case scenario of random connectivity; for larger networks of the brain its hierarchical organization can be exploited to constrain the number of communicating computer nodes. We discuss the limits of the software technology, comparing maximum filling scaling plots for K and the JUGENE BG/P system. The usability of these machines for network simulations has become comparable to running simulations on a single PC. Turn-around times in the range of minutes even for the largest systems enable a quasi interactive working style and render simulations on this scale a practical tool for computational neuroscience.
Keywords: supercomputer, large-scale simulation, spiking neural networks, parallel computing, computational neuroscience
Citation: Helias M, Kunkel S, Masumoto G, Igarashi J, Eppler JM, Ishii S, Fukai T, Morrison A and Diesmann M (2012) Supercomputers ready for use as discovery machines for neuroscience. Front. Neuroinform. 6:26. doi: 10.3389/fninf.2012.00026
Received: 12 July 2012; Accepted: 08 October 2012;
Published online: 02 November 2012.
Edited by:Andrew P. Davison, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France
Reviewed by:Anders Lansner, Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan, Sweden
Copyright: © 2012 Helias, Kunkel, Masumoto, Igarashi, Eppler, Ishii, Fukai, Morrison and Diesmann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
*Correspondence: Moritz Helias, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-6), Computational and Systems Neuroscience, Jülich Research Centre, 52425 Jülich, Germany. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org