“The Blue Brain Project”

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  • Author:  Hill  Sean Markram  Henry Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne  Switzerland;  

  • Abstract:  Abstract The Blue Brain Project began in July 2005 as a collaboration between Professor Henry Markram from the Brain Mind Institute at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) and IBM (International Business Machines), aimed at modelling the neocortical column. The neocortical column represents the basic functional unit of the cerebral cortex in mammals that underlies nearly all sensory and cognitive processing. These units are repeated millions of times across the cortex, with the basic structure remaining the fundamentally the same from mouse to man. From its origins — IBM's BlueGene/L supercomputer and more than 10 years of experimental data from Professor Markram's laboratory — the project has grown to include an international multidisciplinary team of over 35 experimentalists, modellers and computer scientists. The goal of Phase I was to build a cellular level model of the somatosensory cortex of a 2- week-old rat corresponding to the dimensions of a neocortical column as defined by the dendritic arborizations of the layer 5 pyramidal neurons. We have achieved this goal by developing an entirely new data-driven process for creating, validating and researching the neocortical column. Reverse-engineering a portion of the neocortex involves capturing many levels of detail about microscopic cells and fibers — living, dynamic entities that are invisible to the naked eye. Modelling efforts must examine the experimental design and weigh the potential inconsistencies and relevance of the resulting data to the construction and refinement of the model. A simulation-based research process requires that this consistency check occur in an ongoing fashion. The simulation itself now serves as an essential tool for integrating experimental data and defining new experiments that can precisely gather the information necessary to capture the complete biological detail.

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