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Why We're Building a 1-Billion Euro Model of a Human Brain

By New Scientist

February 15, 2013

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The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's Henry Markram has won a 1-billion euro research prize for his Human Brain Project, which will recreate the human brain in a supercomputer to significantly advance neuroscience.

Markram says the supercomputer will serve as a CERN for research, bringing together neuroscientists in genetic, behavioral, and cognitive areas, as well as informaticians, chemists, and mathematicians.

He says the model can explain the interaction of all molecules, and notes that drugs are molecules that hit other molecules, not a cell or the entire brain.

One goal of the project is eventually to couple the brain model to a robot and study the robot learning, following the sequence from molecules to cognition. In addition, the model will be used to discover biological signatures of disease based on global hospital data, which could yield a new classification of brain disease with objective diagnoses not based on symptoms alone.

Markram also intends to create neuromorphic computers with processors that can learn, imitating the human brain. Once a model is coupled to a robot, the robot's neurons will fire and it will behave, but whether the robot will ever be conscious is an unresolved philosophical issue, Markram notes.

From New Scientist
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