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MIT center receives $25 million to examine human intelligence

A new center headquartered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will focus on bringing researchers from separate fields together to try and crack one of the biggest questions facing science today: what is intelligence, and how can we engineer it?

The Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines, supported by a $25 million grant from the National Science Foundation, will include faculty from MIT, Harvard University, and a handful of other universities, as well as a slate of industrial and international partners. By tapping a broad range of expertise, including scholars who study how a baby’s mind develops and others trying to understand how the brain makes sense of social situations, the researchers hope to take a definitive step forward over the next five years toward the long-held goal of understanding intelligence and building computers capable of thinking like people.


“It is a short time in terms of the size of the problem; I don’t expect at all we’ll solve the problem of intelligence and how the brain works and how the mind works,” said Tomaso Poggio, the director of the center and an MIT professor of brain sciences and human behavior. “But we hope to make significant progress, and we hope to shape the research, not only here in Cambridge, but also around the world in how to approach this problem.”

The project was proposed well before President Obama announced his BRAIN initiative to map the circuitry of the brain, but Poggio said the center represents a key piece of the National Science Foundation’s work related to the initiative.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.