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Bevy of Brains Human brain project kicks off in Lausanne

Connecting the dots: the Human Brain Project seeks new ways to understand grey matter


Scientists from 135 research institutions are in Lausanne this week for the launch of the Human Brain Project. The goal of the neuroscience project is to foster a deeper understanding of how the human brain works.

“Today we are beginning a journey to unify our understanding of the brain. It's a very exciting journey and a very difficult journey that will require hundreds if not thousands of scientists over the next ten years. It will provide us with the foundation to understanding mental health, brain disease and ultimately who we are as humans,” coordinator Henry Markram told on Monday. Markram is a neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL).

In January, the European Union (EU) selected the Human Brain Project (HBP) for one of its flagship grants, worth more than €1 billion (CHF1.23 billion). The project’s total budget is an estimated €1.2 billion.

Over the next 30 months, HBP scientists will set up and test research platforms covering the following subjects: neuroinformatics, brain simulation, high-performance computing, medical informatics, neuromorphic computing and neurorobotics. In 2016, these platforms will be ready for use by researchers all over the world.

As Markram told, the HBP will be especially helpful in coping with the challenges of aging.

“In the next few decades society faces enormous challenges of overpopulation and increasing aging and we are not ready. This will place new stresses on society and like a pressure cooker will produce new diseases,” Markram said.

“We believe this project will provide a concrete foundation for how to understand the brain, from genes through to cognition and behaviour. We will also be able to understand how the brain breaks down and gives us different diseases.”

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