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Blue Brain is a project, begun in May 2005, to create a computer simulation of the entire human brain, down to the molecular level. The aim is to study the brain's structure. The project is a collaboration between IBM and Henry Markram's Brain and Mind Institute at the École Polytechnique (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The project uses a Blue Gene supercomputer, running as simulation software, the MPI-based Neocortical Simulator (NCS) developed by Phil Goodman, to be combined with Michael Hines's NEURON software. The simulation will not consist of a mere artificial neural network, but will involve much more biologically realistic models of neurons.
The initial goal of the project, completed in December 2006, 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, which 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.
Now that the column is finished, the project is pursuing two separate goals:
- construction of a simulation on the molecular level, which is desirable since it allows to study effects of gene expression;
- 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).
- "Mission to build a simulated brain begins" (news), project of Institute at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, NewScientist, June 2005, webpage: NewSci7470.
- IBM Aims To Simulate A Brain, Forbes, 6 June 2005.
- Mission to build a simulated brain begins, New Scientist News, 6 June 2005.
- Blue Brain Project site, Lausanne.
- FAQ on Blue Brain.
- NCS documentation.
- NEURON documentation.
- Henry Markram, "The Blue Brain Project", Nature Neuroscience Review, 7:153-160, 2006 February. PMID 16429124.
- Growing a Brain in Switzerland, Spiegel, 7 February 2007
- Out of the Blue -- Can a thinking, remembering, decision-making, biologically accurate brain be built from a supercomputer?, Seed Magazine, March 2008
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