CERN Computing Colloquium

The Human Brain Project: following CERN’s example

by Prof. Henry Markram (Blue Brain Project, Founder & Director - Brain Mind Institute, EPFL)

40-S2-D01 - Salle Dirac (CERN)

40-S2-D01 - Salle Dirac


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The Human Brain Project aims to lay the technical foundations for a new model of ICT-based brain research, driving integration between data and knowledge from different disciplines, and catalyzing a community effort to achieve a new understanding of the brain, new treatments for brain disease and new brain-like computing technologies. This will enable collaborative research in brain research and its applications similar to the way that CERN has pioneered this type of large-scale collaborative science for high engery physics. The HBP aims to build 6 ICT platforms: Neuroinformatics Platform, Medical Informatics Platform, Brain Simulation Platform, High Performance Computing Platform, Neuromorphic Computing Platform and Neurorobotics Platform as part of the mission. The primary reason that we do not understand the brain is because what we know is highly fragmented. The overarching strategy of the HBP is therefore to bind researchers from different disciplines together in a grand attempt at putting the fragmented pieces of data and knowledge together into a unifying computer model of the Human brain. Major trends in ICT indicate the time is ripe to begin this international effort. The potential benefits are huge: in brain research we could begin to understand how the brain codes physical reality and gives rise to cognition and behavior by exploiting 9 orders of magnitude on the spatial scale and 18 orders of magnitude on the temporal scale; in clinical brain research, we will be able to begin mapping out the vulnerabilities of the different brain diseases and develop personalized medicine; in future computing we will be able to extract tested architectures and validated principles to build brain-inspired interactive supercomputers and tailored neuromorphic computing systems that could increase efficiency of certain types of computing by several orders of magnitude. 



Henry Markram 
Coordinator of the Human Brain Project, EPFL

Henry Markram is the Coordinator of the Human Brain Project, a proposed international effort to understand the human brain. His research career started in medicine and neuroscience in South Africa, then at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, at NIH and UCSF in the United States, and the Max-Planck Institute in Germany. In 2002, he joined the EPFL, where he founded the Brain Mind Institute. His career has spanned a wide spectrum of neuroscience research, from whole animal studies to gene expression in single cells. He is best known for his work on synaptic plasticity. In the past 15 years he has focused on the structure and function of neural microcircuits – the basic components in the architecture of the brain. In 2005, he launched the Blue Brain Project: the first attempt to begin a systematic integration of all biological knowledge of the brain into unifying brain models for simulation on supercomputers. The strategies, technologies and methods developed in this pioneering work lie at the heart of the Human Brain Project. 

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