Blue Brain

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Blue Brain is a project, begun in May 2005, to create a computer simulation of the brain of mammals including the human brain, down to the molecular level.[1] The aim is to study the brain's architectural and functional principles. The project was founded by Henry Markram from the Brain and Mind Institute at the École Polytechnique (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland.[1] and is based on 15 years of experimental data obtained from reverse engineering the microcircuitry of the neocortical column.

The project uses a Blue Gene supercomputer,[1] running a simulation software, the MPI-based Neocortical Simulator (NCS) developed by Phil Goodman, to be combined with Michael Hines's NEURON software. The simulation will not consist of a mere artificial neural network, but will involve much more biologically realistic models of neurons.

The initial goal of the project, completed in December 2006[2], was the simulation of a rat neocortical column, which can be considered the smallest functional unit of the neocortex (the part of the brain thought to be responsible for higher functions such as conscious thought). Such a column is about 2 mm tall, has a diameter of 0.5 mm and contains about 60,000 neurons in humans; rat neocortical columns are very similar in structure but contain only 10,000 neurons (and 108 synapses). Between 1995 and 2005, Markram mapped the types of neurons and their connections in such a column.

In November 2007[3], the project reported the end of the first phase, delivering a data-driven process for creating, validating, and researching the neocortical column.

Now that the column is finished, the project is currently busying itself with the publishing of initial results in scientific literature, and pursuing two separate goals:

  1. construction of a simulation on the molecular level,[1] which is desirable since it allows to study effects of gene expression;
  2. simplification of the column simulation to allow for parallel simulation of large numbers of connected columns, with the ultimate goal of simulating a whole neocortex (which in humans consists of about 1 million cortical columns).

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[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b c d "Mission to build a simulated brain begins" (news), project of Institute at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, NewScientist, June 2005, webpage: NewSci7470.
  2. ^ "Project Milestones". Blue Brain. Retrieved on 2008-08-11. 
  3. ^ "News and Media information". Blue Brain. Retrieved on 2008-08-11. 

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