Dr. Henry Markram Talks About the Blue Brain Project in Science

Dr. Henry Markram has modeled a million neurons and a billion synapses since launching The Blue Brain Project six years ago, he said in a recent interview in Science. His ultimate goal is to create a detailed supercomputer model of the brain complete with every last pathway. The first step, the Switzerland based neuroscientist and longtime MBF Bioscience customer says, is to develop an automated system for gathering all the information that already exists on the architecture of the brain. Once this “brain-building software environment” is in place, scientists will be able create “computational models” of brains. In 10 years, he told Science, he expects to have “a first draft of a unified model of the human brain. A unified model is not a complete model, but it’s a model that accounts for what we know.”

In the interview, Dr. Markram responds to criticism he’s received from colleagues and explains how the Blue Brain Project is not as sensational as the media has made it out to be. “What is difficult to get across to the public is that the end result of what we build is going to be far more boring than they would hope. It’s going to be like a massive telescope or an MRI machine sitting in a hospital, and scientists will get together to write a proposal and they’ll book half a day on the machine to run a simulation to test a particular hypothesis,” he said in the Science interview.

He’s referring to all the excitement about the possibility of consciousness in a manmade brain. Dr. Markram has seen neural behavior reproduced when neurons and synaptic connections are recreated, but doesn’t yet know what the full potential of a completely reproduced brain model will be.

Consciousness or no consciousness, a new tool that showcases the myriad functions of the human brain that researchers can use to test all sorts of different hypotheses sounds pretty exciting to us.

The article “Blue Brain Founder Responds to Critics, Clarifies His Goals,” appears in the November 11 issue of Science.

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{Photo of Dr. Henry Markram via bluebrain.epfl.ch}

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