Scientists attempt to construct human brain to unlock mind's secrets
Tool would provide immeasurable help in determining causes of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's
Scientists are now trying to build a replica of the human brain using
the world's most powerful computer. Intended to combine all the
information yet unknown about its mysterious workings, results will be
visible on a screen, right down to the level of individual cells and
The brain simulacrum will be revolutionary for understanding such debilitating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, in addition to shedding light on how the human mind thinks and make decisions.
Professor Henry Markram, based in Switzerland will be working with scientists from across Europe including the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at Cambridge.
Scientists hope to complete the super machine within 12 years. "The complexity of the brain, with its billions of interconnected neurons, makes it hard for neuroscientists to truly understand how it works.
"Simulating it will make it much easier - allowing them to manipulate and measure any aspect of the brain," Markram says.
Housed at a compound in Dusseldorf, Germany, the "brain" will feature thousands of three-dimensional images built around a semi-circular "cockpit" so scientists can virtually "fly" around different areas and watch how they communicate with each other.
The artificial brain will integrate all the neuroscience research being carried out all over the world, or an estimated 60,000 scientific papers every year into one platform.
The project has received some funding from the European Union and has been shortlisted for a #1 billion euro, E.U. grant which will be decided next month.
When finished, the brain could be used to test new drugs, which could dramatically shorten the time required for licensing them than human trials, and pave the way for more intelligent robots and computers.
There are concerns about the consequences of this "manipulation" and creating computers which can think independently. In Germany the media have dubbed the researchers "Team Frankenstein."
"This will, when successful, help two billion people annually who suffer from some type of brain impairment," Professor Markram says.
"This is one of the three grand challenges for humanity. We need to understand earth, space and the brain. We need to understand what makes us human."
Over the past 15 years his team have painstakingly studied and managed to produce a computer simulation of a cortical column - one of the small building blocks of a mammal's brain.
Scientists have also simulated part of a rat's brain using a computer. But the human brain is a totally different proposition.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Human brain, recreation, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's
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