Oct. 15, 2018

HBP Open Day 2018 – the Flagship at the halfway mark

Today the European Flagship Human Brain Project held its annual Open Day with record visitor numbers in Maastricht. After opening keynotes by speakers Dick Swaab and Jeff Hawkins, this year´s host Rainer Goebel, a neuroimaging expert and Professor of Cognitive Science at Maastricht University, welcomed the many guests and fellow HBP members to an exciting and fascinating day of science.

Press Release 15 October 2018

15. 10. 2018 – Today the European Flagship Human Brain Project held its annual Open Day with record visitor numbers in Maastricht. After opening keynotes by speakers Dick Swaab and Jeff Hawkins, this year´s host Rainer Goebel, a neuroimaging expert and Professor of Cognitive Science at Maastricht University, welcomed the many guests and fellow HBP members to an exciting and fascinating day of science.

In the Human Brain Project, Goebel is a central contributor, bringing extremely high-resolution brain scanning methods into its experimental research, and leading a highly interdisciplinary project on visuo-motor integration. “We can be proud here in the Netherlands to be a very strong pillar of this unique European project”, Goebel said. Many Dutch researchers, like Pieter Roelfsema in Amsterdam, who in a talk at the event presented his work on developing a visual brain-prosthesis for the blind, contribute majorly to the Flagship. 

On a busy Science Market throughout the day, hundreds of visitors took the opportunity to talk to the HBP-scientists, exchanging ideas and experiences, and trying out interactive demonstrations with Virtual Reality systems, Neurorobots, and more. 

Impressions from the Science Market

“One cannot stress enough the relevance of this project for life and society”, said Rianne Letschert, Rector of Maastricht University, who welcomed the HBP and its visitors on behalf of the university, before HBP Scientific Director Katrin Amunts gave an overview about the status and outlook of the HBP in its current stage.

The Open Day this year marked a special occasion: Started in October 2013 as a ten-year FET Flagship project of the European Commission, the HBP crossed half-time this month. “Reaching the halfway point, we can by now look back at many successful developments”, Katrin Amunts said. “The project has consolidated into highly productive work towards a central goal: Building a unique Scientific Research Infrastructure that unites neuroscience, medicine and modern information technology, to realize the vast potential for synergies between these areas.
 
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Speakers Rainer Goebel, Rianne Letschert, and Katrin Amunts at the HBP Open Day

The HBP researchers use it to gain new insights into biological information processing in the brain and for clinical applications in medicine, and work together on technology innovations for new supercomputing developments, artificial intelligence, robotics and brain-inspired computer chips. Four large neuroscience projects work together with six technology-driven platform projects, to develop this infrastructure. “We had to break new ground in many ways, but the convergence of these two sides is paying off with highly interesting results. At this point, ways of investigating the multi-scale complexity of the brain come into reach, as well as types of medical applications, that really couldn’t function without this technology-driven approach and strong infrastructure”, the scientist explains.

Among them is a personalized medicine approach to improve the outdomes of epilepsy surgeries, which is on course to be tested in a large clinical trial. The work combines clinical neuroscience methods and theory, modelling and macroscale brain simulation, using resources of High-Performance Computing and machine learning. (See press release, 15. 10. 2018: Improving epilepsy care: HBP researchers involved in major clinical trial

“It is one of our central aims to catalyze such developments by enabling neuroscience and cutting-edge technology to work together in an increasingly routine and seamless way through the HBP Joint platform”, says Katrin Amunts. “There is a lot left to do and to discuss, but we are well on track with this and can look forward to the second half”.

Tomorrow, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel will welcome the HBP scientists from all over Europe to the Human Brain Projects 3-day Summit, the yearly full meeting of the project, which unites the work of more than 500 scientists from 121 institutions in 20 nations.