A joint team of European scientists digitally recreated essential area of rat brain, which may soon help other researchers encode the entire human brain into a computer model. The feat is the work of 82 neuroscientists who have been on this project, dubbed “the Blue Brain,” for more than a decade.
The team disclosed that they were able to generate the most accurate digital model of the brain of an animal ever created. The reconstruction encompasses 30,000 neurons and nearly 40 million of synapses from a rat brain part, which is no larger than a third of a millimeter.
Henry Markram, the lead researcher involved in the project, now hopes that the recent feat may convince European authorities to resume the controversial Human Brain Project (HBP), a $1- billion-plus program designed to create a simulation of the entire human brain.
Yet, critics claim that the attempts to simulate the brain is a waste of time and money
“There is nothing in it that is striking, except that it was a lot of work,”
recently said Zachary Mainen, a neuroscientist from Lisbon, in Portugal.
Other researchers also received the paper with criticism when they learned that scientists digitally recreated essential area of rat brain. The dispute, however, was ongoing for more than a decade. The HBP was recently contested by 800 scientists, who signed an open letter to the European Commission to halt the project. They argued that digitally encoding the human brain was too complex for current technology, plus, the project was poorly managed.
Critics also said that the Blue Brain project (BBP) engulfed a lot of money and produced little to no results. But Markram said that the recent paper may finally do the project justice.
Markram’s team was able to recreate on a computer the sensory cortex of a lab mouse. The cortex helps the animal move its hind limbs. Researchers had to first perform thousands of measurements of neurons and the electrical signals they were emitting.
Based on that data, the team recreated 55 different types of neurons to which they added more virtual brain cells and up to 200 million synaptic connections, which tie neurons together in a dense network within the brain tissue.
But the final model ended up with 37 million synapses after scientists adjusted the simulation through an algorithm that calculated just how many contact points neurons may need to properly function within such a small piece of brain tissue.
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