The Human Brain Project Wants To Understand What Makes Us Human And Revolutionize Computing Technology

Human Brain Project
The Human Brain Project wants to unlock the mysteries of the human brain. Human Brain Project

The Human Brain Project is an international project that wants to understand the human brain and use that research to advance computer technologies. The goal would be to create a computer simulation of the human brain and the research is being funded, in part, by the European Union and will include more than 135 institutions, reports BBC.

The Human Brain Project, HBP, is “A global, collaborative effort for neuroscience, medicine and computing to understand the brain, its diseases and its computational capabilities.” For ten years, institutions involved with the HBP will develop new technology and conduct research on the human brain.  According to Fox News, the HBP will attempt to create an “exascale” supercomputer, 1,000 times faster than supercomputers currently available. The HBP will cost one billion pounds, $1.6 billion, and will run for 10 years. Partners include Cray, HP, Olympus and GlaxoSmithKline.

As part of its neuroscience objective, the HBP will conduct experiments and develop brain models and simulations to map out the brain. According to the HBP, “Neuroscience has the potential to reveal the detailed mechanisms leading from genes to cells and circuits and ultimately to cognition and behavior – the very heart of that which makes us human.” The project’s medicine objective will analyze data from hospitals to identify biological changes associated with neurological or psychiatric diseases. Through these efforts, the HBP hopes to create a human brain model that they can use to conduct disease simulations, a tool that lets researchers develop and test potential treatments.

The third objective of the HBP involves computing technologies. The human brain’s computational abilities remain a mystery and figuring out how the human brain can make different decisions, as well as how it communicates, could revolutionize computing technology. A new field, “Neuromorphic Computing Systems,” that mimics the human brain, including the ability to learn, could be created based on the work by institutions involved in the HBP. As BBC notes, the HBP is akin to the Human Genome Project but won't attempt to map the entire brain, instead focusing on creating brain simulations using new computer technology.

The HBP is hosting its 2013 summit this week, kicking off with a keynote speech on Oct. 7 followed by panels until Oct. 11. The panels will discuss using brain simulations, neurorobotics, and other areas of research associated with the three objectives of the HBP as well as the ethics and social impact of such a project.

A playlist of HBP videos can be viewed below.

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