IBM has announced it will lead a US government-funded collaboration to make electronic circuits that mimic brains.
Part of a field called "cognitive computing", the research will bring together neurobiologists, computer and materials scientists and psychologists.
As a first step in its research the project has been granted $4.9m (£3.27m) from US defence agency Darpa.
The resulting technology could be used for large-scale data analysis, decision making or even image recognition.
"The mind has an amazing ability to integrate ambiguous information across the senses, and it can effortlessly create the categories of time, space, object, and interrelationship from the sensory data," says Dharmendra Modha, the IBM scientist who is heading the collaboration.
"There are no computers that can even remotely approach the remarkable feats the mind performs," he said.
"The key idea of cognitive computing is to engineer mind-like intelligent machines by reverse engineering the structure, dynamics, function and behaviour of the brain."