The Human Brain Project is one of two visionary projects, wich are funded for the next ten years by the European Union.
A detailed simulation of the entire human brain, from genetics to the molecular level and the interaction of whole cell clusters, performed on a supercomputer of the future: such is the visionary goal of the Human Brain Project (HBP), in which JARA researchers are involved. The ambitious ten-year venture is one of two research projects to be funded by the EU as part of its FET Flagship Initiative. The costs of the Human Brain Project are estimated to be € 1 billion.
EU-funded project pools scientific expertise from over 80 research institutions
The Human Brain Project brings together neuroscientists, psychiatrists, neurologists, computer scientists, physicists and mathematicians from more than 80 European and international research institutions in 23 countries. Together, these researchers are working to build a unique infrastructure that will allow them to establish and further develop a brain research and information technology network. The research project is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Henry Markram from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
Jülich Supercomputing Centre experts are developing a new generation of exaflop computers
Simulating neural networks as complex as the human brain requires considerably more computing power than today’s supercomputers can provide. Jülich’s know-how and infrastructure in the field of supercomputing will therefore make a major contribution to the project. Experts from the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC), together with cooperation partners, are developing a new generation of exaflop computers and suitable software. “The Human Brain Project will enable information technology to make a giant leap forward,” says Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Lippert, head of JSC. Within the Human Brain Project, he is also responsible for supercomputing and for the construction of the future Human Brain supercomputer, which will be ready for installation at JSC by 2020.
“We will develop faster and more powerful computers in order to simulate increasingly detailed models of the brain. New findings on the function of the brain will in turn open up new perspectives in data processing.”
“Multimodal brain map will be the navigation system in the Human Brain Project”
Scientists at Forschungszentrum Jülich’s Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM) will help to provide fundamental neurobiological information, for example about the structure of individual neurons, entire neuron clusters, and larger networks, and about the way they work. “We are creating a virtual human brain that covers the spatial organization of the brain from the molecular level right up to the complex system of functions. This multimodal brain map will be the navigation system in the Human Brain Project,” says Prof. Dr. Katrin Amunts, who is a director at INM and also heads a subproject of the Human Brain Project that is concerned with the multilevel organization of the human brain.
Prof. Dr. Markus Diesmann, also a director at INM in Jülich, works at the interface between medical research and simulation technology: “We investigate processes in the brain, for example by developing simplified models of neurons and simulating their activity and communication with each other. By comparing our results with experimental data, we can then progressively refine our models until they closely resemble the real network of the brain.”
The virtual model of the brain will help to develop new drugs
The virtual model of the brain will in future make it easier for physicians to understand the structure and function of the healthy and diseased brain, and enable new drugs to be developed and tested. “The structural organization of the human control centre and its functional processes have yet to be explored in many areas,” says Prof. Dr. Dr. Frank Schneider, head of University Hospital Aachen’s Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. “Within the framework of the EU support programme, it will now be possible to pool scientific expertise and manpower in order to investigate and map the structure of and processes in the brain at many different levels and in all its complexity.”
Also involved in the Human Brain Project are visualization experts from RWTH Aachen University. “We visualize all of the simulation data generated, from the cellular level and neuron clusters right up to the areas of the brain,” says Prof. Dr. Torsten Kuhlen, head of the Virtual Reality Group at the Department of Computer Science 12/Centre for Computing and Communication at RWTH Aachen University. “In doing so, we process the extremely large volumes of data so that neuroscientists can analyse them interactively and thus gain new knowledge.”
Further information on the Human Brain Project can be found at http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/