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

Cyclopean Masonry: A Mystery of the Ancient World
2014 04 16
They don’t make things like they used to, and that is, in some cases, a monumental understatement. Silly wordplay notwithstanding, there is something to be said for the construction techniques of the old world. Where modern buildings are designed to withstand the elements; wind, temperature extremes, earthquakes and floods, today’s engineers have to strike a balance between economics ...
Megalithic Origins : Ancient connections between Göbekli Tepe and Peru
2014 04 16
At 6,500 years older than Stonehenge and 7,000 years before the pyramids were constructed, a cult megalithic complex sat atop the hills near current day Sanliurfa, in southeast Turkey. Göbekli Tepe was flourishing an astonishing 12,000 - 14,000 years ago, and today, the preserved remains still exhibits high degrees of sophistication and megalithic engineering skill. Back in the 1990’s when ...
Department of Transportation Uses LRAD Sound Cannons Against Drivers
2014 04 16
The Missouri Department of Transportation revealed two newly acquired LRAD sound cannons this week, which will reportedly be used to target vehicles that speed in work zones. Coming in at $25,000 a piece, the Long-Range Acoustic Device, a sonic weapon best know for its use against protesters and insurgents in Afghanistan, will alert drivers to road conditions by shooting a loud ...
An ’Unknown Holocaust’ and the Hijacking of History
2014 04 16
An address by Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review, delivered at an IHR meeting in Orange County, California, on July 25, 2009. (A report on the meeting is posted here.) We hear a lot about terrible crimes committed by Germans during World War II, but we hear very little about crimes committed against Germans. Germany’s defeat in May ...
Ex-Mayor Bloomberg Starting $50 Million Gun-Control Network
2014 04 16
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ramped up his efforts to fight gun violence on Wednesday with a plan to spend $50 million on a grassroots network to organize voters on gun control. The initiative’s political target is the powerful pro-gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, that spends millions of dollars each year to back gun-rights supporters. Bloomberg’s group, called Everytown ...
More News »