The European Blue Brain Project to simulate the rat brain has finally bore its first fruit. Researchers spent over 20 years of biological experimentation and 10 years of computational science work to get to this point. The project has been hotly contested across the science world. Last year, more than one hundred neuroscientists threatened to boycott the project unless significant changes were made. More than 1 billion euro was funneled into the project by the European Commission, and many scientists wondered if anything useful would be created.
But alas, the first findings were published October 8 in the journal Cell, in an article entitled, “Reconstruction and Simulation of Neocortical Microcircuitry.”
“[We] find a spectrum of network states with a sharp transition from synchronous to asynchronous activity, modulated by physiological mechanisms,” wrote the authors. “The spectrum of network states, dynamically reconfigured around this transition, supports diverse information processing strategies.”
This first simulation is meant to represent a “scaffold” on which many more layers of complexity can be added. I think it’s a good first step and hopefully this work can lead to a deeper understanding of the human brain.