Artificial brain '10 years away'
2009 07 24

By Jonathan Fildes | news.bbc.co.uk


Professor Markram said he would send a hologram to talk at TED in 10 years


Professor Markram talks with the BBC about the Blue Brain (Audio)

A detailed, functional artificial human brain can be built within the next 10 years, a leading scientist has claimed.

Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project, has already simulated elements of a rat brain.

He told the TED Global conference in Oxford that a synthetic human brain would be of particular use finding treatments for mental illnesses.

Around two billion people are thought to suffer some kind of brain impairment, he said.

"It is not impossible to build a human brain and we can do it in 10 years," he said.

"And if we do succeed, we will send a hologram to TED to talk."

'Shared fabric'
The Blue Brain project was launched in 2005 and aims to reverse engineer the mammalian brain from laboratory data.

In particular, his team has focused on the neocortical column - repetitive units of the mammalian brain known as the neocortex.

"It's a new brain," he explained. "The mammals needed it because they had to cope with parenthood, social interactions complex cognitive functions.

"It was so successful an evolution from mouse to man it expanded about a thousand fold in terms of the numbers of units to produce this almost frightening organ."

And that evolution continues, he said. "It is evolving at an enormous speed."

Over the last 15 years, Professor Markram and his team have picked apart the structure of the neocortical column.

"It's a bit like going and cataloguing a bit of the rainforest - how many trees does it have, what shape are the trees, how many of each type of tree do we have, what is the position of the trees," he said.

"But it is a bit more than cataloguing because you have to describe and discover all the rules of communication, the rules of connectivity."

The project now has a software model of "tens of thousands" of neurons - each one of which is different - which has allowed them to digitally construct an artificial neocortical column.

Although each neuron is unique, the team has found the patterns of circuitry in different brains have common patterns.

"Even though your brain may be smaller, bigger, may have different morphologies of neurons - we do actually share the same fabric," he said.

"And we think this is species specific, which could explain why we can't communicate across species."

World view
To make the model come alive, the team feeds the models and a few algorithms into a supercomputer.

"You need one laptop to do all the calculations for one neuron," he said. "So you need ten thousand laptops."

Instead, he uses an IBM Blue Gene machine with 10,000 processors.

Simulations have started to give the researchers clues about how the brain works.

For example, they can show the brain a picture - say, of a flower - and follow the electrical activity in the machine.

"You excite the system and it actually creates its own representation," he said.

Ultimately, the aim would be to extract that representation and project it so that researchers could see directly how a brain perceives the world.

But as well as advancing neuroscience and philosophy, the Blue Brain project has other practical applications.

For example, by pooling all the world's neuroscience data on animals - to create a "Noah's Ark", researchers may be able to build animal models.

"We cannot keep on doing animal experiments forever," said Professor Markram.

It may also give researchers new insights into diseases of the brain.

"There are two billion people on the planet affected by mental disorder," he told the audience.

The project may give insights into new treatments, he said.

The TED Global conference runs from 21 to 24 July in Oxford, UK.

Article from:


Henry Markram - The Emergence of Intelligence in the Neocortical Microcircuit



Related Articles
The Blue Brain Project
Henry Markram
Blue Brain Project
Blue Gene
Artificial neural network
Aubrey de Grey, Artificial Intelligence, Singularity, Longevity and the Holy Grail
The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
The Creation of Smarter Than Human Intelligence
Robot Demonstrates Self Awareness
Artificial life likely in 3 to 10 years
Patent sought on 'synthetic life'
Team develops DNA switch to interface living organisms with computers
Red Ice Radio - Kevin Warwick - Artificial Intelligence & The Rise of the Machines in 2020
Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms
Red Ice Radio - John Lash - Artificial Technomania of the Archons
Brain Machine Interfaces
How Does The Brain Make Conscious Decisions?
Connect your Brain to the Internet?
'Brainbox' Computer Mimics Human Brain
Next-generation toys read brain waves
Reading This Will Change Your Brain
Neuroimaging Of Brain Shows Who Spoke To A Person And What Was Said
'We'll be able to upload our brains to a computer'
We are moving ever closer to the era of mind control
Artificial intelligence
Can a thinking, remembering, decision-making, biologically accurate brain be built from a supercomputer?
Building a Brain on a Silicon Chip
Henry Markram Lecture at IBM Research's Almaden Institute Conference on Cognitive Computing in 2006 (Video)
Henry Markram at TEDGlobal 2009: Running notes from Session 5


Latest News from our Front Page

Exponential growth of Ashkenazi Jews following a Medieval population bottleneck
2014 09 17
A recent paper by Marta Costa et al. found that around 80% of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA had a prehistoric European origin (and ruled out the Khazar hypothesis). Combined with previous Y chromosome studies indicating that the male line is Middle Eastern, the results suggested a scenario in which Jewish males married European females after traveling to Europe. Now another paper, ...
Bankers Rule: City of London vs. Scottish Independence
2014 09 17
Now that the independence referendum is too close to call, the bankers express their worry. The media blitz ramps up to tip the outcome. Scottish independence has finally rattled the City of London has the usual banksters forecasting the dislocations from a currency panic. Scotland has a long and noteworthy history of banking. Money, savings and investing is entrenched in the ...
French separatists want Scots to say "yes"
2014 09 17
Separatist leaders in Brittany, Corsica and the French Basque Country will watch with interest as Scotland votes on independence next week, but they don’t expect France to follow the UK’s lead any time soon. Pro-independence activists point to the fact they have their own languages and cultural identities. France, however, remains a deeply centralized country and any talk of a negotiated ...
Devil’s Deal: US-Backed Syrian Rebels Already Signed Pact with ISIS Prior to Haines Beheading
2014 09 17
While Washington considers appropriating half a billion in funds to the Syrian rebels, we now learn that opposition groups the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and al Qaeda affiliate ‘al Nusra Front’, have officially aligned themselves with ISIS… Despite grand words by US President Obama and British PM David Cameron, here’s what’s really behind their plan to bomb ISIS in Syria… In a ...
World War III for Dummies
2014 09 16
A Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding the Present World Situation. 1998 - 2000 Powerful elites and influential think tanks forecast a coming period of American aggression. Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks for the Globalist faction of the western PRC (Predatory Ruling Class) in ’The Grand Chessboard’, a book in which he openly advocates for bolder American action in dominating the Eurasian land mass. During this ...
More News »