Monday, June 06, 2005

The Blue Brain Project (BBP)

A collaboration between IBM and Dr. Henry Markram , founder of the Brain/Mind Institute at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) (Switzerland), has been announced that will lead to the creation of computer-simulated neocortical columns.

According to the EPFL website:
"The first phase of BBP will be to replicate in software, a column of the Neocortex (NCC) with 10,000 morphologically complex neurons with unprecedented detail for high-speed simulations.

The second and subsequent phases will be to simplify the NCC and expand the simulation to brain regions and eventually the whole brain.

An accurate replica of the neocortical column is the essential first step to simulating the whole brain and will also provide the link between genetic and molecular levels of brain function and high-level cognitive functions.

The neocortical column is considered to be the elementary network of neurons that can act as a unit exhibiting most of the complex functions of the brain."
Today's IBM press release reads in part:
"Yorktown Heights, NY and Lausanne, Switzerland, June 6, 2005 – IBM and The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are today announcing a major joint research initiative – nicknamed the Blue Brain Project – to take brain research to a new level.

Over the next two years scientists from both organizations will work together using the huge computational capacity of IBM’s eServer Blue Gene supercomputer to create a detailed model of the circuitry in the neocortex – the largest and most complex part of the human brain. By expanding the project to model other areas of the brain, scientists hope to eventually build an accurate, computer-based model of the entire brain.

Relatively little is actually known about how the brain works. Using the digital model scientists will run computer-based simulations of the brain at the molecular level, shedding light on internal processes such as thought, perception and memory. Scientists also hope to understand more about how and why certain microcircuits in the brain malfunction – thought to be the cause of psychiatric disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and depression.

“Modeling the brain at the cellular level is a massive undertaking because of the hundreds of thousands of parameters that need to be taken into account,” said Henry Markram, the EPFL professor heading up the project. “IBM has unparalleled experience in biological simulations and the most advanced supercomputing technology in the world. With our combined resources and expertise we are embarking on one of the most ambitious research initiatives ever undertaken in the field of neuroscience.”
[ ... Read the full press release ... }

The IBM webpage that outlines the BBP is linked here.
Anthony H. Risser | | |

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