Building Electronic Brains for In Silico Neuroscience

Sunday, 16 February 2014
Crystal Ballroom A (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Henry Markram , EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland
It is not possible to experimentally map all the neurons, synapses, connections, proteins and genes expressed in the brain, let alone to dissect the causal mechanisms underlying their interactions. The Human Brain Project takes a radically different approach – predictive neuroscience. The project will take data that are already available and known rules governing the structural and functional organization of the brain. It will then use these data and rules to build algorithmically reconstructed models of the brain. Validation against experimental data will make it possible to iteratively improve models and to identify priorities for future experiments. Initial studies by the Blue Brain Project show that this approach can reliably predict many aspects of brain structure and function. In principle, the methods developed in the HBP can be applied to the brain of any species at any age and in any disease state. Brain modelling thus provides a generic and systematic way of determining what can and cannot be predicted and what has to be measured experimentally. Most importantly, brain simulation allows measurements and manipulations impossible in the lab, opening the road to a new kind of in silico experimentation. In summary, HBP predictive neuroscience represents a new strategy for neuroscience research with the potential to unify our understanding of the structure and function of the brain. Predictive neuroscience is especially valuable for research on the human brain, where many of the methods used in animals are not applicable.