Gift establishes new program in physics of intelligence at Center for Brain Science

Kohji Asakawa from Pixabay

3 min read

Harvard’s Center for Brain Science has received a gift from the NTT Research Foundation to establish the Center for Brain Science-NTT Fellowship Program.

The two-year gift, renewable for up to three more years, creates a fund that supports postdoctoral research in the physics of intelligence, an emerging field that uses physics to tackle fundamental questions in intelligence, bridging computer science, neuroscience and psychology. If renewed, the donation could total over $1.7 million. The fund can be used to support two postdoctoral researchers, technology, facilities, travel, guest speakers for seminars and meetings, and other associated costs.

The new program will amplify themes that have emerged through a pre-existing relationship between the Center for Brain Science and the NTT Research Physics & Informatics Laboratories. Under a 2021 agreement, the two organizations undertook shared research into natural and artificial intelligence. Physicists and AI researchers from the PHI Lab’s Intelligent Systems Group, led by Hidenori Tanaka, who is also a Center for Brain Science associate, have established fruitful alliances with neuroscientists and psychologists at Harvard.

Scientists affiliated with the Center for Brain Science study the structure and function of neural circuits; how they give rise to computations that govern thought and behavior; how those circuits change, develop and vary; and what circuits can become amiss or disordered, yet potentially ameliorated.

“We’re grateful to the NTT Research Foundation for this generous gift, which comes on top of several years of unique intellectual contributions and collaboration,” Center for Brain Science director Venkatesh Murthy said. “The Harvard Center for Brain Science looks forward to developing ideas around the Physics of Intelligence through fellowships, seminars, talks and other activities that both enhance and align with our diverse approach to neuroscience.”

Shaping this ongoing academic cross-pollination is the dramatic rise of powerful AI, which provides a new subject of study for the science of intelligence.

“We are thrilled to support the Harvard Center for Brain Science at the dawn of the Physics of Intelligence,” NTT Research President and CEO Kazuhiro Gomi said. “As history teaches us, inventions — consider the steam engine, electricity, liquid crystals — can lead to new fields in physics. Today AI is playing that role and giving us an opportunity to explore fundamental questions involving the science of intelligence, as well as address some urgent practical problems, like the need for computational systems that are unbiased, trustworthy and green. We believe this free gift will advance those shared goals.”

NTT Research opened its offices in July 2019 as a new Silicon Valley startup to conduct basic research and advance technologies that promote positive change for humankind.