The Research Nest
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The Research Nest

The Blue Brain Project- An Overview

What it is and the technological progress so far

Ever wondered why do we feel that?

Let me tell you (and even those who were too mature to do it). The whole process consisted of lifting your right hand, then taking the index finger and thumb, pulling a bit skin of your left forearm into the cavity formed, and pinching it. All of this (including the pain felt) was controlled by a small, just 2 mm patch of 6-layer brain tissue, called the Neocortex.

A computer simulation of the upper layer of a rat brain neocortical column. Here neurons light up in a “global excitatory state” of blues and yellows. Courtesy of Dr. Pablo de Heras Ciechomski/Visualbiotech
  • 2007, they completed building the full cortical column of a rat.
  • 2010, they scaled up the project from the rat brain to the human brain. The project was given an obvious name “The Human Brain Project”.
  • 2012, the team developed methods that will make it possible to predict the connectivity of neocortical microcircuitry.
  • 2013, the team developed models to identify and characterize neuronal clusters in neuron microcircuits.
  • 2015, a study was released which proved the feasibility of building and stimulating a digital copy of the brain, which was a breakthrough.
  • 2017, the team finds a multi-dimensional universe in brain networks, which could lead to significant implications in our understanding of the brain.
  • 2018, the release of the first 3D model of the mouse brain, named Atlas. The team releases Blue Brain Nexus, which would be used as a knowledge graph, for searching, integrating, and tracking large-scale data and models.
  • 2019, the Blue Brain starts answering difficult questions. How does the brain find order in the sea of noise and chaos? By advanced simulations, the team found how neurons interact with each other to find even the weakest signals.
  • 2020, they extend the performance modeling techniques of the brain tissue simulations. They make analytical performance models on the brain tissue simulations, which hence prove the feasibility of full brain tissue simulations.

So, it’s not a guess. It’s a logical guess.

Tech-stack

Here are the tools used or developed in this project, that you may use to study or even make your own visualizations.

  • The second, Criticism. The Blue Brain Project has received a lot of criticism for itself and also for their leader. In 2013, the team of over 800 scientists even signed an appeal for the change in leadership. Not just that, people like Sebastian Seung has gone head to head with Henry about its whole concept and promise of virtual functional brain mapping.
  • Then the third part, Competition. Many other projects other than the Blue Brain Project were founded during this decade long journey, like the BRAIN initiative by Obama and many others. The documentary is set to be released in 2020.

What’s next?

In the future, the Blue Brain Project will try to answer even more fundamental questions like the state of consciousness. How do we think? Questions like these may be answered once this project gets concluded. But where does it stop? When will we know that they did it? The team aims to create a digital reconstruction of the human brain by reverse-engineering mammalian brain circuitry. And once they do that it will be one of the greatest achievements in the field of Neuroscience. That’s when we will know.

Further reading and references-

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