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The Blue Brain Project is an attempt to create a synthetic brain by reverse engineering the mammalian brain down to the molecular level.

The aim of the project, founded in May 2005 by the Brain and Mind Institute of the École Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland, is to study the brain's architectural and functional principles. The project is headed by the Institute's director, Henry Markram. Using a Blue Gene supercomputer running Michael Hines's NEURON software, the simulation does not consist simply of an artificial neural network, but involves a biologically realistic model of neurons.[1][2] It is hoped that it will eventually shed light on the nature of consciousness.

There are a number of sub-projects, including the Cajal Blue Brain, coordinated by the Supercomputing and Visualization Center of Madrid (CeSViMa), and others run by universities and independent laboratories in the UK, US, and Israel.

GoalsEdit

Neocortical column modellingEdit

The initial goal of the project, completed in December 2006,[3] 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.

Whole brain simulationEdit

A longer term goal is to build a detailed, functional simulation of the physiological processes in the human brain: "It is not impossible to build a human brain and we can do it in 10 years," Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project said in 2009 at the TED conference in Oxford.[4] In a BBC World Service interview he said: "If we build it correctly it should speak and have an intelligence and behave very much as a human does."[5]

ProgressEdit

In November 2007[6], 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 studying the 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).

FundingEdit

The project is funded primarily by the Swiss government and secondarily by grants and some donations from private individuals. The EPFL bought the Blue Gene computer at a reduced cost because at that stage it was still a prototype and IBM was interested in exploring how different applications would perform on the machine. BBP was a kind of beta tester. [7]

Cajal Blue Brain (Spain) Edit

File:UPM-CeSViMa-SupercomputadorMagerit.jpg

The Cajal Blue Brain [8] is coordinated by the Technical University of Madrid and uses the facilities of the Supercomputing and Visualization Center of Madrid and its supercomputer Magerit. The Cajal Institute also participates in this collaboration. The main lines of research currently being pursued at Cajal Blue Brain include neurological experimentation and computer simulations. Nanotechnology, in the form of a newly designed brain microscope, plays an important role in its research plans.[9].

See also Edit

NotesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Graham-Rowe, Duncan. "Mission to build a simulated brain begins", NewScientist, June 2005.
  2. Palmer, Jason. Simulated brain closer to thought, BBC News.
  3. Project Milestones. Blue Brain. URL accessed on 2008-08-11.
  4. Artificial brain '10 years away' 2009 BBC news
  5. includeonly>"Artificial brain '10 years away'", BBC News, 22 July 2009. Retrieved on 26 April 2010.
  6. News and Media information. Blue Brain. URL accessed on 2008-08-11.
  7. Blue Brain Project - IBM has not withdrawn support. Henry Markram, Project Director as quoted by IBM Switzerland to Technology Report on January 19, 2009. URL accessed on 2009-04-14.
  8. [1]
  9. [2]

References Edit

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