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Human Brain Project: 2014’s optimistic start …

  • January 1st, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

brain-1280The European Union has started its giant-scale research drive – €1.2-billion ($A1.85-billion; xe.com, 1.1.14) over ten years — to create the best and most true understanding yet of the human brain.REVOLUTION

Human Brain CubeThe Human Brain Project (HBP), announced formally in October, declares optimistically it will gain “profound insights into what makes us human, develop new treatments for brain diseases and build revolutionary new computing technologies.”

Putting biology together with digital technology, super-computing; it wants to create multi-dimensional models that can “turn the goal of understanding the human brain into a reality.”

It starts by drawing together a library of existing work, and speaks of “encouraging visionary, ‘mission-oriented’ research with the potential to deliver breakthroughs in information technology — with major benefits for European society and industry.”

APPLICATIONS

Obvious applications are for managing experimental data on the brain, on an unrecognised scale; for medicine; and for advances in computing – mutual assistance of real brains and digital ones.

The project is to be supported by central European Union funding under its Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) initiative, and national funding agencies of member countries.

MONEY

It is to start with €54-million (A$83.28-million) from the European Commission to “deliver the basic tools for working together, integrate all efforts, data and models around six platforms: neuroinformatics, brain simulation, high performance computing, medical informatics, neuromorphic computing and neurorobotics.”

Its base at the EPF, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, will be one step outside of the EU itself; undoubtedly a sound centre of knowledge, and the choice of location may be a useful device to stop member governments squabbling over which one will get it.

Innocent observers might hope this brings an improvement in the highly dangerous human species, with the brain as known, both too large and too small; if it can tone down the tendency to cause trouble and boost the capacity to solve problems once made.

TRANSFORMATIONS?

A slight usage of the brain as presently experienced and understood, brings on the idea that this new scientific project does have the potential for altering basic understandings.

Transformations of consciousness might follow, like the understandings of Copernicus and Galileo, of that bigger (or smaller) phenomenon, the known universe; when they moved the Earth, and human beings, from the centre to the fringe.

This must be, similarly and de rigeur, open and shared science, fortified with a strong ethics regimen now being elaborated; yet undoubtedly it must also be a platform for endless, covetous licensing and prospects for making money; it may conceivably pay its way many times over.

OVERVIEW OF THE PROGRAM

The following is the published Overview statement for the project; the significance of it plain enough to any brains clear of common id-ten-T rating.

Understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. If we can rise to the challenge, we can gain profound insights into what makes us human, develop new treatments for brain disease and build revolutionary new computing technologies. Today, for the first time, modern ICT has brought these goals within sight.

Convergence of ICT and Biology

The convergence between biology and ICT has reached a point at which it can turn tthe goal of understanding the human brain into a reality. It is this realisation that motivates the Human Brain Project – an EU Flagship initiative in which over 80 partners will work together to realise a new “ICT-accelerated” vision for brain research and its applications.

One of the major obstacles to understanding the human brain is the fragmentation of brain research and the data it produces. Our most urgent need is thus a concerted international effort that uses emerging emerging ICT technologies to integrate this data in a unified picture of the brain as a single multi-level system.

Research Areas

Brain neuroscienceThe HBP will make fundamental contributions to neuroscience, to medicine and to future computing technology.

In neuroscience, the project will use neuroinformatics and brain simulation to collect and integrate experimental data, identifying and filling gaps in our knowledge, and prioritising  future experiments.

In medicine, the HBP will use medical informatics to identify biological signatures of brain disease, allowing diagnosis at an early stage, before the disease has done irreversible damage, and enabling personalized treatment, adapted to the needs of individual patients. Better diagnosis, combined with disease and drug simulation, will accelerate the discovery of new treatments, drastically lowering the cost of drug discovery.

In computing, new techniques of interactive supercomputing, driven by the needs of brain simulation, will impact a vast range of industries. Devices and systems, modelled after the brain, will overcome fundamental limits on the energy-efficiency, reliability and programmability of current technologies, clearing the road for systems with brain-like intelligence.

The Future of Brain Research

BRAIN cluster-1280Applying ICT to brain research and its applications promises huge economic and social benefits. But to realise these benefits, the technology needs to be made accessible to scientists – in the form of research platforms they can use for basic and clinical research, drug discovery and technology development. As a foundation for this effort, the HBP will build an integrated system of ICT-based research platforms,  Building and operating the platforms will require a clear vision, strong, flexible leadership, long-term investment in research and engineering, and a strategy that leverages the diversity and strength of European research. It will also require continuous dialogue with civil society, creating consensus and ensuring the project has a strong grounding in ethical standards.

The Human Brain Project will last ten years and will consist of a ramp-up phase and a partially overlapping operational phase.

 
Reference

European Union, Brussels, Human Brain Project-Overview.
https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/discover/the-project/overview, (1.1.14).

Jose Fernandez-Villacanas, The Human Brain Project begins: Unravelling the future of neuroscience, computing and medicine, 16.10.13. EU Brussels. https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/blog/human-brain-project-begins-unravelling-future-neuroscience-computing-and-medicine, (1.1.14).

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