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An international group of neuroscientists claims to have made a small but significant step toward simulating the entire human brain in a computer. The researchers unveiled one of the most detailed digital reconstructions of brain tissue ever built: a simulation of 30,000 neurons, connected at almost 40 million contact points, in a piece of rat brain about a third of a cubic millimeter in size.
The long-awaited paper is the main outcome of the Blue Brain Project, a 10-year program spearheaded by Henry Markram, a neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, and funded in part by the Swiss government. Markram sees it as a validation of plans for the Human Brain Project (HBP), a hugely ambitious project he initiated that aims to model the entire human brain in silico.
But other scientists see the 36-page paper as proof that the idea of modeling a brain and all of its components is misguided and a waste of money. “There is nothing in it that is striking, except that it was a lot of work,” says Zachary Mainen, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon.
The reaction to the paper mirrors a dispute that has divided Europe’s neuroscience community since HBP was picked by the European Commission. Last year, hundreds of scientists signed an open letter charging that HBP was badly managed and too narrowly focused scientifically. The signatories threatened to boycott the project unless the program was broadened and its governance improved.
Read full, original post: Rat brain – or smidgeon of it – is modeled in a computer