The project defines how a brain works and represents neurons, their electoral properties and the circuits that connect them to each other
Based on years of research, a group of more than 80 scientists has created a biologically-detailed computer simulation of rat’s brain. The work reconstructs a section of rat’s brain and demonstrates around 31,000 brain cells connected by some 40 million synapses in 3D shape.
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The digital modeling of the rat brain is a part of global initiative called “Blue Brain Project”, commenced in 2005 and is led by a neurobiologist Henry Markram of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). The ultimate aim of these scientists is to stimulate a human brain in a supercomputer and the recent result is the first major achievement in this regard.
The simulation gives a glimpse into the function of a brain and represents different types of neurons, their electoral properties and the circuits that connect them to each other.
However, creating high-resolution imaging of the features and activities of neurons in a portion of brain was nothing less than a massive challenge.
"The reconstruction required an enormous number of experiments," says Markram. "It paves the way for predicting the location, numbers, and even the amount of ion currents flowing through all 40 million synapses."
In the project, 82 scientists from 12 countries around the world participated and created, what they call the "first draft" of a functioning map of 30,000 brain cells, 55 layers of cells and 207 neuron subtypes. The demonstration also allowed them to see the behavior of neurons under different conditions and it further raises many new types of questions to explore.
For instance, slow synchronous waves of neuronal activity have been observed during deep sleep, which suggests that neural circuits may switch into different states. So a question comes to mind, ‘What if you’re stuck in the wrong state?’
“The insights we gather from these experiments will help us understand different states in the healthy and unhealthy brain and in the future, we could also use the digital model to develop new ways of treating brain illnesses.”
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The researches of Blue Brain Project are planning to improve the technology and to make a model which will be less complicated than the model currently is.