Professor Steve Furber is a researcher and group leader at the University of Manchester. He has had a long career as a computer scientist and hardware engineer. Within the Human Brain Project (HBP), he has worked within the focus area of neuromorphic computing and as a member of the Science and Infrastructure Board. We spoke about how these disciplines can help reach a better understanding of the human brain.
Where in the brain does consciousness emerge? Is it possible to detect the faintest signs of consciousness after it has been lost? Is there a way to restore consciousness, “bringing back” a patient after severe brain injury? Scientists in the HBP have been attempting to unravel these and other mysteries of consciousness and have made significant progress: they have developed new methods to better distinguish different states of consciousness on the brain level – from awake to asleep, to anaesthetised, to impaired due to brain injury or disease – and have made advances towards potential new treatments and better care …
In order for us to turn sensory information into memories, networks of interconnected neurons in our brains need to work together in concert. Human Brain Project (HBP) researchers set out to better understand the dynamics of such networks. To this end, they had a close look at the relationships between single neurons and neuron populations across multiple brain regions in rats, specifically, the cortical areas and the hippocampus.
We are talking to Dr. Mihai Petrovici, a physicist and computational neuroscientist at the University of Bern. He leads a team that is working at the intersection of biological and artificial intelligence.
The Fenix infrastructure, set up by Europe’s leading supercomputing centres, emerged from the Human Brain Project and now offers invaluable computing and data resources for the entire scientific community.
HBP researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich and the University of Cologne (Germany) have uncovered how neuron densities are distributed across and within cortical areas in the mammalian brain. They have unveiled a fundamental organisational principle of cortical cytoarchitecture: the ubiquitous lognormal distribution of neuron densities.
In the Human Brain Project, researchers are using state-of-the-art measurements, analysis and modelling tools to advance our knowledge of the neural mechanisms underlying our senses, especially vision, which is responsible for a large part of the information we receive from our surroundings.
Researchers of the Human Brain Project have coupled the measurements of brain waves associated with disorders of consciousness (DoC) with glucose usage in specific brain areas, identifying where in the brain the waves might be generated. The study for the first time adds the dimension of location and energy consumption to the reading of brain waves in DoC, and reveals the important role of subcortical areas in driving cortical activity associated with consciousness. The findings have been published in the journal Cell Reports.
Our brain has evolved through embodiment in a physical system – the human body – that directly senses and acts in the world. In contrast, most of the currently used AI systems have no ‘bodies’ and lack a direct connection to the physical world. Connecting AI systems to the physical world through robotics and designing them based on principles from evolution, is a promising approach to develop AI with more human-like cognition. This is the position taken by HBP researcher and Professor at the University of Sheffield in Cognitive Robotics Tony Prescott in a paper recently published in Science Robotics.
HBP researchers from Germany performed detailed cytoarchitectonic mapping of distinct areas in a human cortical region called frontal operculum and, using connectivity modelling, linked the areas to a variety of different functions including sexual sensation, muscle coordination as well as music and language processing.