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July 25, 2005
The Blue Brain Project
IBM and Swiss researchers have recently joined forces on a project, dubbed the 'Blue Brain Project', to uncover the secrets of cognitive intelligence.
While your genome can fit on an Ipod (about 3 gigabytes of data), the information about your brain will require petabytes of information storage and an unknowable amount of processing power. Over the next two years scientists from both organizations will work together to create a detailed model of the circuitry in the neocortex -- the largest and perhaps the most complex part of the human brain. By expanding the project to model other areas of the brain, scientists hope to eventually build an accurate, computer-based model of the entire brain.
Using the digital model scientists will run computer-based simulations of the brain at the molecular level, shedding light on internal processes such as thought, perception and memory. Scientists also hope to understand more about how and why certain microcircuits in the brain malfunction -- thought to be the cause of psychiatric disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and depression.
"Modeling the brain at the cellular level is a massive undertaking because of the hundreds of thousands of parameters that need to be taken into account," said Henry Markram, the EPFL professor heading up the project. "IBM has unparalleled experience in biological simulations and the most advanced supercomputing technology in the world. With our combined resources and expertise we are embarking on one of the most ambitious research initiatives ever undertaken in the field of neuroscience."
Markram is the founder of EPFL's Brain and Mind Institute, where more than 10 years of research and wet-lab experiments have been consolidated into the world's most comprehensive set of empirical data on the micro-architecture of the neocortex.
Looks like IBM has its head pointed in the right direction by pursuing the rapidly developing neuroinformatics market.
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