The Human Brain Project
The unification of computers, neuroscience, neuromorphic computing, neuroinformatics, cognition and behaviour and mathematics will change medicine forever
The HBP (The Human Brain Project) may become one of the most remarkable projects of human history in the 21st century.
It is a science and technological venture that will merge the actual knowledge on a series of fields such as neuroinformatics, medicine, neuroscience, cognition and behaviour, information technologies, neuromorphic computing, and mathematics. All these subjects will be utilised for a common purpose: the simulation of brain models.
To complete all the stages of the HBP, specialists in supercomputers (exascales computing systems) will be in charge to put together infrastructures with enough computer power to emulate, through the multi-level system, the behaviour, functionality and interconnection of highly active neurons.
To design the brain models, the supercomputers will be nurtured with information selected by researchers from thousands of scientific papers that contain clinic and neuroscience experiments, from anatomical to molecular level.
While the neural network is being designed and neural connections take place, mathematical concepts will be extrapolated, and such data will serve to generate mathematically, the activity of the human brain under different stimulus in real time.
Participants in the project
The European Commission elected in May 2011, in Budapest, the HBP as one of the six finalists that if selected in April 2012 will be granted 100 million Euros per year during 10 years to complete the whole project. As a matter of fact, the HBP is based in the studies of the Blue Brain Project.
There are 15 institutions participating in the pilot project
- Research coordination: The Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland. The Forschung Zentrum Julich in Germany. The University of Heidelberg, Kirchof Institute for Physics in Germany.
- Research Pillars: for neuroinformatics, the Karolinska institutet, in Sweden. For neuroscience, the Wellcome Trust Sanger in United Kingdom and the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid in Spain. For medicine, the CHUV-UNIL in Switzerland. For behavioural and cognition, the CEA in France. For theoretical and mathematical neuroscience, the Hebrew University in Israel. For simulation the EPFL in Switzerland. For brain interfaces, the IMEC in Belgium. For education, the IMU in Austria. For ethics, legal and society, the Pasteur Institute in France.
The advantages of brain simulation
Brain simulation will offer scientific possibilities never thought before in many disciplines. For example in medicine, neurological disorders and brain diseases will be identified in a real scale manner, from a cellular and molecular perspective to an entire anatomical view. Such models will facilitate the adequate theranostics (diagnosis and therapeutics) to follow in order to cure diseases. Another advantage will be that patients will stop being guinea pigs for the testing of drugs. Medication will be tested in the computerised brain model. The brain interfaces will show the side effects and biochemical imbalances produced by the drug intake.
New “intelligent” prosthetic devices will be designed and manufactured for disabled patients.
The HBP will become a well known innovative and essential distance learning platform to train the new generation of researchers and professionals.
Finally, with brain simulation the robotic industry will experience a gigantic step, due to the development and implementation of neuromorphic computing devices. Robots will be produced with a new technology: electronic circuits that mimic neurobiological structures existing in the human nervous system.
If the HBP is awarded the required funding in April 2012, it will revolutionise medicine, information technologies, robotics, life sciences and education. And it will provide clinical researchers and other professionals with the means to fight against diseases that at present are incurable. However, it is of main importance that adequate legal regulations and security protocols are brought into effect on its due time, to make sure that this scientific revolution will not be in use to trespass the boundaries on human rights.
Find out more about The Human Brain Project (HBP).