This story is from the category The Brain
Date posted: 24/04/2009
The Blue Brain Project at Ecole Polytechnique F?d?rale de Lausanne in Switzerland is an attempt to simulate the functioning of the brain by building the virtual organ from the ground up, molecule by molecule. After much computer programming of data from experimental studies into the virtual organ, the first effective simulations have been performed.
The "Blue Brain" has been put in a virtual body, and observing it gives the first indications of the molecular and neural basis of thought and memory. Scaling the simulation to the human brain is only a matter of money, says the project's head. The work was presented at the European Future Technologies meeting in Prague.
The first phase of the project is now complete; researchers have modelled the neocortical column - a unit of the mammalian brain known as the neocortex which is responsible for higher brain functions and thought.
"The thing about the neocortical column is that you can think of it as an isolated processor. It is very much the same from mouse to man - it gets a bit larger a bit wider in humans, but the circuit diagram is very similar," Henry Markram, leader of the Blue Brain project and founder of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland, said.
Professor Markram told the Science Beyond Fiction conference that the column is being integrated into a virtual reality agent - a simulated animal in a simulated environment, so that the researchers will be able to observe the detailed activities in the column as the animal moves around the space.
"It starts to learn things and starts to remember things. We can actually see when it retrieves a memory, and where they retrieved it from because we can trace back every activity of every molecule, every cell, every connection and see how the memory was formed."
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