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Computer Modeling: Brain in a Box

By Nature

February 27, 2012

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A proposal by Swiss Federal Institute of Technology scientist Henry Markram to build a supercomputer model integrating all knowledge about the human brain is one of six finalists competing for a $1.3 billion Flagship grant from the European Union.

His Human Brain Project (HBP) would combine discoveries about the brain to generate simulations to investigate the organization of neural circuits and their roles in behavior and cognition. Markram says using computers to explicitly encode all the models produced by experiments and get them to interoperate would help scientists find the gaps and contradictions in their knowledge and recognize the experiments needed to address them. HBP would require about 1 exaflop of computer power to simulate, and exascale computers could be available in the 2020s if computer power continues to double roughly every 18 months.

Markram says the HBP's selection as a Flagship project would make the project available as an Internet-accessible, collaborative effort open to researchers worldwide. "It will be lots of Einsteins coming together to build a brain," he notes. However, other scientists caution that Markram's bottom-up data integration strategy could result in a simulation so over-detailed that it will be no easier to understand than the actual brain.

From Nature 
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