Brain-inspired technologies and an open infrastructure for brain research: The HBP Scientific Conference closes with a look into the future

    19 October 2021

    Day two of the Human Brain Project Scientific Conference started with a strong focus on brain-inspired technologies. Giacomo Invideri (ETH Zurich) presented an illuminating keynote on “Neuromorphic Computing and Engineering: Past, Present and Future”.

    “If we want to build brain-inspired computing we really have to rethink the nature of computation, we have to make a radical paradigm shift from the standard way,” the scientist said. New ways of computing are necessary, not least because of the unsustainably growing energy demands of AI. Hardware inspired by the brain is one of the most promising approaches going forward. The Human Brain Project is funding two most advanced systems, SpiNNaker and BrainScaleS. Both are available to researchers on EBRAINS

    A keynote by Pierre Magistretti (EPFL Lausanne) was focused on “Neurotechnology as a bridge between basic neuroscience and clinical application”, stressing the advances of, e.g., neural stimulation techniques, of which the HBP has supported two approaches against paralysis and blindness. EBRAINS could play an important future role in advancing neurotechnology efforts in Europe, Magistretti argued, by connecting neurotechnology platforms across Europe.

    A panel of leading scientists discussed the broader “Future of brain inspired technology”. Deep learning approaches that integrate certain aspects of information processing in the brain have been shown to enhance efficiency in some cases, explained Sacha van Albada, FZ Jülich. “But there are many features of neuronal connectivity that have not yet been included.”

    The final conference day gave a special opportunity to young scientists in the project to showcase their research. During a virtual poster session poster prize winners were chosen to present short talks to over 100 attendees via live-stream. We congratulate the winners:

    • Jakob Kaiser, Heidelberg University
    • Sami Mollard, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
    • Ingrid Reiten, University of Oslo
    • Ariane Bruno, Research Center Jülich
    • Chiara De Luca, University of Rome
    • Etienne Combrisson, Aix-Marseille University

    The second day was also dedicated to introducing EBRAINS, the new Research Infrastructure delivered by the HBP, and discussing how to maximize its impact.

    Paweł Świeboda, Director General of the HBP and CEO of EBRAINS, presented the plenary “EBRAINS in the European Landscape” to lay out and discuss the next steps. “We need to promote synergies and data sharing,” said Paul Boon, who participated in the session. Boon is President Elect of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN), which represents 45 000 neurologists in Europe.

    Katrin Amunts, Scientific Research Director of the HBP said: “I hope that the insights and instruments created in the Human Brain Project will help revolutionize brain medicine and research. EBRAINS is the platform which brings it all together.”

    Yannis Ioannidis, Software Development Director of the HBP, explained the EBRAINS services together with Jan Bjaalie and Steven Vermeulen.

    "In the coming years, I hope to see a transformation in the way we do neuroscience,” said Jan Bjaalie, Infrastructure Operations Director, with EBRAINS allowing scientists to more easily combine creative and systematic approaches to brain research.

    “I think we have a fascinating journey ahead of us. EBRAINS, which is powered by the Human Brain Project, should be an enabler for new horizons,” said Paweł Świeboda, concluding this year’s HBP Summit.

    HBP scientists in the virtual meetings

    The team on-site

    The Summit was streamed from Brussels to participants around the world