Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Mission to build a simulated brain begins

Filed under
Sci/Tech

An effort to create the first computer simulation of the entire human brain, right down to the molecular level, was launched on Monday.

The "Blue Brain" project, a collaboration between IBM and a Swiss university team, will involve building a custom-made supercomputer based on IBM's Blue Gene design.

The hope is that the virtual brain will help shed light on some aspects of human cognition, such as perception, memory and perhaps even consciousness.

It will be the first time humans will be able to observe the electrical code our brains use to represent the world, and to do so in real time, say Henry Markram, director of Brain and Mind Institute at the Ecole Polytecnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.

It may also help in understanding how certain malfunctions of the brain's "microcircuits" could cause psychiatric disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and depression, he says.

Until now this sort of undertaking would not be possible because the processing power and the scientific knowledge of how the brain is wired simply was not there, says Charles Peck, IBM's lead researcher on the project.

"But there has been a convergence of the biological data and the computational resources," he says. But efforts to map the brain's circuits and the development of the Blue Gene supercomputer, which has a peak processing power of at least 22.8 teraflops, now make this possible.

Mapping the brain

For over a decade Markram and his colleagues have been building a database of the neural architecture of the neocortex, the largest and most complex part of mammalian brains.

Using pioneering techniques, they have studied precisely how individual neurons behave electrically and built up a set of rules for how different types of neurons connect to one another.

Very thin slices of mouse brain were kept alive under a microscope and probed electrically before being stained to reveal the synaptic, or nerve, connections. "We have the largest database in the world of single neurons that have been recorded and stained," says Markram.

Neocortical columns

Using this database the initial phase of Blue Brain will model the electrical structure of neocortical columns - neural circuits that are repeated throughout the brain.

"These are the network units of the brain," says Markram. Measuring just 0.5 millimetres by 2 mm, these units contain between 10 and 70,000 neurons, depending upon the species.

Once this is complete, the behaviour of columns can be mapped and modelled before moving into the second phase of the project.

Two new models will be built, one a molecular model of the neurons involved. The other will clone the behavioural model of columns thousands of times to produce a complete neocortex, and eventually the rest of the brain.

The end product, which will take at least a decade to achieve, can then be stimulated and observed to see how different parts of the brain behave. For example, visual information can be inputted to the visual cortex, while Blue Brain's response is observed.

Source.

More in Tux Machines

How to Run Android Apps and Games on Linux

Want to run Android apps on Linux? How about play Android games? Several options are available, but the one that works the best is Anbox, a useful tool that runs your favorite Android apps on Linux without emulation. Here’s how to get it up and running on your Linux PC today. Read more Also: 8 Best Android Apps For Kids To Help Children Learn With Fun | 2018 Edition

SUSE: openSUSE Tumbleweed and SUSE in HPC

  • Krita, Linux Kernel, KDEConnect Get Updated in Tumbleweed
    There have been a few openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots released in the past two weeks that brought some new features and fixes to users. This blog will go over the past two snapshots. The last snapshot, 20180416, had several packages updated. The adobe-sourceserifpro-fonts package updated to version 2.000; with the change, the fonts were refined to make the Semibold and Bold heavier. Both dbus-1 and dbus-1-x11 were updated to 1.12.6, which fixed some regreations introduced in version 1.10.18 and 1.11.0. The gtk-vnc 0.7.2 package deprecated the manual python2 binding, which will be deleted in the next release, in favor of GObject introspection. Notifications that caused a crash were fixed in kdeconnect-kde 1.3.0. The 4.16.2 Linux Kernel made ip_tunnel, ipv6, ip6_gre, ip6_tunnel and vti6 better to validate user provided tunnel names. Due to a build system failure, not all 4.16.2 binaries were built correctly; this will be resolved in the 20180417 snapshot, which will be released shortly. Krita 4.0.1 had multiple fixes from its major version upgrade. The visual diff and merge tool meld 3.19.0 added new features like a new per-pane status bar with selectors for syntax highlighting and text encoding. Python Imaging Library python-Pillow 5.1.0 removed the freetype-2.9.patch and YaST had several packages with a version bump.
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise High Performance Computing in the SLE 15 Beta Program!
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise 15 Prepares HPC Module
    The upcoming release of SUSE Linux Enterprise 15 is offering an HPC (High Performance Computing) module for development, control, and compute nodes. Today that SLE15-HPC module is now available in beta.

OPNsense 18.1.6

For more than 3 years now, OPNsense is driving innovation through modularising and hardening the code base, quick and reliable firmware upgrades, multi-language support, fast adoption of upstream software updates as well as clear and stable 2-Clause BSD licensing. Read more

Turris MOX is a Modular & Open Source Router

A company from the Czech Republic is trying to raise money to bring a modular and open source router to the public. It has a number of features that can’t be found in the current line up of routers available for purchase. Read more