October 8, 2013
The European Union is funding the Human Brain Project (HBP) being launched at a Swiss University with 1.2 billion Euros.
With the development of “thinking technology”, machine manufacturers could create “thinking cars” and cognitive “home appliances”.
The HBP will utilize “supercomputers to model the brain and then simulate drugs and treatments for diseases.”
The vision statement of the HBP explains the initiative is primarily focused on building “a completely new information computing technology infrastructure for neuroscience and for brain-related research in medicine and computing, catalyzing a global collaborative effort to understand the human brain and its diseases and ultimately to emulate its computational capabilities.”
According to the website, the HBP focuses on:
• Future computing
Findings produced by the HBP will contribute “to neuroscience, to medicine and to future computing technology.”
Researcher will allow the HBP 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.”
At the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (SFIT), 135 partner institutions met with scientists to discuss developing test platforms over the next 2 ½ years. Their goal is to create viable simulations and computations regarding the human brain by 2016.
The Ecole Polythechnique Federale de Lasusanne (EPFL) explained : “Nine months after its selection as an EU Flagship, the project is officially on its way. The scientists involved in the Human Brain Project now have two and a half years to finalize the research platforms. Once these are established, researchers will have at their disposal the infrastructures, tools and methods they need in order to meet their objectives.”
The EPFL continued: “[The HBP’s] goal is to develop methods that will enable a deep understanding of how the human brain operates. The knowledge gained will be a key element in developing new medical and information technologies. On Monday, October 7, 2013, the project partners met at EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne), the coordinating institution. Over the course of a week, neuroscientists, doctors, computer scientists and roboticists will fine-tune the project’s details. Six months after its selection by the EU as one of its FET Flagships, this project of unprecedented complexity, with an estimated budget of €1.2 billion, has now been set in motion.”
Amina Ann Qutub, bioengineer at Rice University (RU) commented: “The human brain is immensely complex, and a model reduces this complexity into a controlled system. In a model, scientists can test hypotheses as to how the human brain works, and what occurs in disease in order to understand how to treat neurological conditions. It’s analogous to astronauts training in a flight simulator prior to a shuttle launch.”
Last May, President Obama devoted $100 million in taxpayer money to fund the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) project.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH); DARPA; and privately funded institutions such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Kavil Foundation (KF), and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (SIBS) will share in the initial $300 million Obama set aside to kick off the project.
To understand the brain, how it functions, how the neuro-network connects, the NIH has brought together researchers and scientists from the Rockefeller University and Stanford University will assist in creating a human brain blueprint and co-chair the governmental council that oversees the entire project.
Its goal is to: “Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson’s or struggle in the grip of epilepsy. Imagine if we could reverse traumatic brain injury or PTSD for our veterans who are coming home. Imagine if someone with a prosthetic limb can now play the piano or throw a baseball as well as anybody else, because the wiring from the brain to that prosthetic is direct and triggered by what’s already happening in the patient’s mind. What if computers could respond to our thoughts or our language barriers could come tumbling down. Or if millions of Americans were suddenly finding new jobs in these fields — jobs we haven’t even dreamt up yet — because we chose to invest in this project.”