Ambitious aim: The Human Brain Project wants to simulate the entire human brain by using high performance computing.
Image: Defelipe Spain/HBF
The detailed biological simulation of the entire human brain – that is the goal of the "Human Brain Project". In Berlin, scientists from Jülich, Munich, Heidelberg and Lausanne presented their contributions to this ambitious project. The project is competing with five others for recognition as an EU FET Flagship initiative – large-scale, science-driven projects that aim to achieve a visionary technological goal. Next year, the EU intends to select two such flagships and fund them with up to € one billion each for a period of ten years.
"The human brain is more efficient than any computer," says project coordinator Prof. Henry Markram of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). "It is energy-efficient, can work with incomplete data, and is able to train and repair itself. The ability to simulate these capabilities would revolutionize information technology, medicine and society itself."
Thirteen partners from 9 EU member states have joined in the Human Brain Project
Thirteen partners from 9 EU member states have joined together to this end in the Human Brain Project. They approach this area from many different aspects: from neuroscience, genetics, supercomputing, information technology and robotics up to sociological and ethical issues. Since last week, this project and five others are in the final round of the competition for the FET Flagship funding. Scientists have until the middle of 2012 to perform feasibility studies and put together a detailed proposal of their project in all its aspects, supported by €1.5 million of EU funding.
The Human Brain Project aims among other things to focus the continually growing volume of data in neuroscience, to organize and standardize these data for use in simulations. Even today around 60,000 research documents on the function of specific genes, molecules and neurological disorders are published per year.
"Our virtual human brain can provide a type of navigation," JARA-BRAIN researcher Prof. Katrin Amunts says
JARA-BRAIN neuroscientists are active in this area. "For example, we are working on a virtual human brain, displaying the spatial organization of the brain from the molecular level right up to the complex functional system. In the Human Brain Project, this multi-modal brain map can provide a type of navigation system," says Katrin Amunts, head of the Jülich project.
Within the Human Brain Project scientists plan to develop faster and more powerful computers. Image: HPC Jülich/HBP
A further goal of the FET Flagship is to open doors for new technologies. Partners in the Human Brain Project are taking this as a given: "Information technology will enable the Human Brain Project to make a giant leap forward," says Prof. Thomas Lippert, head of the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC) and one of the co-directors of the Human Brain Project. "We plan to develop faster and more powerful computers in order to simulate increasingly detailed models of the brain. New findings on the function of the brain can in turn inspire new methods of data processing." Furthermore, scientists expect the project to bring about advances in medicine for the diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases. The fields of robotics and neuromorphic computing also stand to benefit from brain simulation.
Further information on the Human Brain Project: