A bigger and bigger part of the computer science industry is moving toward BCIs studies and improvements in the latest period. We indeed spoke about BrainNet, BrainArt, and many other latest technologies, but BCI was born a little earlier.
The Human Brain Project is a scientific research project that aims to build a collaborative ICT-based infrastructure across Europe to advance knowledge in the field of neuroscience, computing, and brain-related medicine. Here BCIs are heavily used, studied and realized.
History and motivations
The project began in 2013, but it was indeed the prosecution of the project Blue Brain, in partnership with IBM. Started in 2005 with the objective of realizing a complete simulation of a brain, the project uses the supercomputer Blue Gene, and in 2005 the scientists were able to create a functioning model of a single neuron. Later, in 2008, they managed to simulate the neocortical column of a rat, that counts 10.000 neurons.
The current project relies on more than 500 scientists from different disciplines, coming from more than 100 universities, hospitals, and research center across the European continent, with 22 countries involved. It was chosen by the European Commission as one of the Future and Emerging Technologies Flagships. Coordination offices are in Geneva.
The primary objective is to use simulations of the brain to investigate the pathologies of the nervous system and let the brain-complete-simulator available to all scientist worldwide. This way researches on illnesses like Alzheimer, schizophrenia, depression and several others would improve significantly.
The main problem with these pathologies is in fact that they can now be seen just like a bunch of symptoms. With a brain simulator, neuroscientists could classify them from a biological point of view. Empirical results can be used to develop theories to foster modeling and simulations. Their results then, again, can be used to make predictions on real-life cases.
Human Brain Project
The heart of HBP infrastructure is formed by six ICT platforms.
- Neuroinformatics. Its goal is to provide and handle access to shared brain data. Currently, they provide an integrated multi-level, data-enriched atlas of the rodent brain and one of the human brain. They also identify and develop ontologies to work with and qualify data.
- Brain simulation. It’s an internet-accessible collaborative platform designed for reconstruction and simulation of brain models. It offers a suite of software tools and workflows for collaborative brain research. The scientist can choose the level of detail of the models, according to what they’re trying to achieve.
- Neurobotics. In this part, virtual brain models meet real or simulated robot bodies. This serves to explore how the model controls movement, reacts to stimulus and learns in the environment (real or virtual). By transferring the model to a robot it’s also possible to test the fidelity of the simulation, and check for any inconsistency.
- High-performance analytics and computing. This platform develops and provides supercomputing, storage, visualization, and simulation technology that will run on supercomputers. This way scientists all over the world can run data-intensive multi-scale brain simulations and then manage workflows with data analysis and visualization.
- Medical informatics. Hospitals and research centers can access shared medical data, and share them too actively. Users can see and study relevant information about brain-related disease, preserving the patients’ confidentiality.
- Neuromorphic computing. This platform lets scientist use SpiNNaker and BrainScaleS to run simulations and emulations.