Highlights and Achievements

HBP research has resulted in over 700 journal publications to date, unique new research infrastructures, and high-level scientific events. Here we highlight some of them.



How brain cells work together for spatial memory and imagery 

Researchers Neil Burgess and Andrej Bicanski from University College London (UCL) have developed a computational model showing how the mental images we have drawn from our memories can be explained by the firing of individual brain cells. The model was published in the open access journal eLife. The work contributes to HBP´s research area of Theoretical Neuroscience, where Prof. Burgess leads a task on “Models of Spatial Memory”. The team also extensively collaborates with colleagues from Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience. Read more about it in the UCL press release:


Individual Brain Charting: A high-resolution brain map of cognitive functions

28. 08. 2018 – Funded by the HBP, the Individual Brain Charting project acquires a set of high-resolution functional MRI maps of the brain during a wide range of behavioral tasks. The data will be used to develop a macroscopic functional atlas and contributes to the HBP´s research area “Human Brain Organization”. The first version of the project´s dataset has now been released in the open access journal Scientific Data. 


The Virtual Brain neuroinformatics platform joins the HBP

16. 07. 2018 – The researchers will focus on refining the theoretical underpinnings of the computer models used, developing efficient simulation technology, and working on neuroinformatics solutions that enhance the reproducibility of studies.



Progress in brain simulation on neuromorphic computers

12. 07. 2018 – HBP researchers in Manchester and Jülich have compared the accuracy, speed and energy efficiency of the neuromorphic system SpiNNaker with that of the supercomputing software NEST during a large-scale brain simulation. The findings take SpiNNaker one step closer to simulating brain neural networks in real-time.

HBP hosts International Brain Initiative

06. 07. 2018 – Representatives of the International Brain Initiative (IBI) met on July 5, in Geneva, to further cooperation between the world’s major brain research projects. The meeting was hosted by HBP with facilitation from The Kavli Foundation and EPFL.


Successfull 1st HBP International Conference on consciousness research

23. 06. 2018 – More than 220 participants came together for a fascinating two days at the HBPs International Conference "Understanding Consciousness" in Barcelona. 23 talks from leading researchers, 100 posters and 14 flash talks from young scientists captured the dynamic field that consciousness research is today.


Jean-Pierre Changeux honored with 2018 ALBERT EINSTEIN World Award of Science

04. 06. 2018 – Prof. Jean-Pierre Changeux, Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience at the Institut Pasteur and Collège de France has been selected as the winner of the 2018 ALBERT EINSTEIN World Award of Science. Prof. Changeux leads HBP´s Co-Design Project 6 - Modelling Drug Discovery.


Bernd Stahl to lead new computer ethics project

31. 05. 2018 – HBP´s Ethics Director Bernd Stahl is the coordinator of the new SHERPA project - Shaping the ethical dimensions of smart information systems - a European perspective, which is receiving 2,8 Million Euro in funding under the H2020 programme. “SHERPA will benefit from working with the HBP experts and I hope that it can feed into the discussion of ethics of AI as the technologies develop further", Prof. Stahl said.


The hippocampus as never seen before

30. 05. 2018 – Researchers from HBP´s research area Human Brain oroganization have imaged a post-mortem human hippocampus with an 11.7T preclinical MRI machine at unequalled resolution. Next, the same sample will be analyzed with Polarized Light Imaging (PLI) in order to compare results from the two imaging approaches. 


Measures of consciousness in unresponsive patients

07. 05. 2018 – Scientists in HBP´s research area Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience (SP3) are working on more accurate and clinically useful ways of measuring whether a patient is conscious, in order to help doctors to make decisions on treatment and care.


CEA welcomed as new supercomputing partner

27. 04. 2018 – The Très Grand Centre de calcul of CEA has joined the High Performance Analytics and Computing (HPAC) Platform. The supercomputer and storage resources of CEA will be integrated into the HPAC Platform by the end of the year.


Linking gene expression to brain microstructure

24. 04. 2018 A team of researchers from the European Human Brain Project (HBP) has developed the JuBrain Gene Expression tool (JuGEx) that combines the benefits of a genetic and an anatomical atlas. Using JuGEx, the scientists found differentially expressed candidate genes for major depressive disorder in a disease-affected part of the brain.


HBP at "Shaping Europe’s Digital Future"

19. 04. 2018 – On 19 April the Bulgarian Presidency event "Shaping Europe’s Digital Future - High Performance Computing for Extreme Scale Scientific and Industrial Applications" was held in Sofia. The HBP contributed extensively with presentations, an exhibition and a Young Researchers Event. A full account can be read here:


Science: Why some visual cues don’t reach consciousness (SP2)

22. 03. 2018 – Understanding conscious perception is a major challenge for neuroscience. A new study published on March 22nd in Science now shows why weak visual stimuli of the same strength are sometimes detected and other times remain subliminal: As the signals travel from visual areas to the prefrontal cortex, fluctuating brain dynamics can make the difference, elevating some signals above the threshold of conscious experience and stopping others in their tracks. The findings enabled the creation of a model combining elements of two major theories of consciousness and perception. Central to the model is an event called “global ignition”, which allows information to become sustained long enough to make its mark on our inner stage. In simulated trials, the model produces results highly similar to real-life measurements, including the occasional “false alarm”. Senior author Pieter Roelfsema from Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience is working in the European Human Brain Project within the areas of Human Brain Organisation and Visuo-Motor Integration.



“A call to action for everyone at HBP” - 1st Gender and Diversity Conference (SP11)

On March 9 2018, the European Human Brain project (HBP) hosted its first Gender and Diversity Conference at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM).

Devoted to the topic of Promoting Innovative Leadership, the meeting gathered scientists from within and outside of the project to discuss ways of fostering equal career opportunities between men and women. Discussions with international experts added the dimension of more systematically integrating sex and gender analysis into research. The conference was jointly organized by UPM, the HBP’s Coordination office, the HBP Education Programme and EAF Berlin. It was preceded by a career workshop and networking event for female researchers on March 8, the International Women’s Day.



Trends in Cognitive Science: Looking deeper into brain function (SP2)

01. 03. 2018 – SP2 researchers propose a new concept to discover the “operational functions” of brain areas. As new big data bases for neuroimaging results offer become availble, they argue that a change in perspective could lead to a deeper understanding. Read more: https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/en/follow-hbp/news/looking-deeper-into-brain-function/



HBP and Intel reveal new neuromorphic chip architectures (SP9)

26 02 2018 – SP 9 researchers along with colleagues from Intel have jointly revealed three new neuromorphic chips during the NICE 2018 conference. Prototypes of the new BrainScaleS-2 chip and SpiNNaker-2 chip were presented. https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/en/follow-hbp/news/computers-learn-to-learn


HBP workflows and collaboration highlighted in European Psychiatry (SP5, SP1 and SP3)

February 2018 – A recent publication in the journal European Psychiatry illustrates key principles of the HBP workflows used for registration of a range of data categories to reference atlases of the brain. Neuroscientists upload experimental data and associated metadata to the HBP data systems.

A curation service delivered by the Neuroinformatics platform organizes the data and helps standardize the metadata. The curation process includes registration of experimental data to common frameworks represented by the reference atlases. Workflows are exemplified using rodent brain data to demonstrate how data from different experimental modalities, registered to reference atlases, can be combined and unified with other data categories. Through these examples, the paper illustrates ongoing collaborative efforts between SP1, SP3 and SP5. Finally, the application of these approaches for characterization and analysis of rodent models of neurological diseases is discussed.

For more: Bjerke et al.: Data integration through brain atlasing: Human Brain Project tools and strategies. European Psychiatry 2018, in press.


An algorithm for large-scale brain simulations (SP7)

16 02 2018 – Researchers of Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany, RIKEN, Kobe and Wako, Japan, and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden, have made a decisive step towards creating the technology to achieve simulations of brain-scale networks on future supercomputers of the exascale class. Simultaneously, the new algorithm significantly speeds up brain simulations on existing supercomputers. Original publication: Jakob Jordan et al.: Extremely Scalable Spiking Neuronal Network Simulation Code: From Laptops to Exascale Computers. Front. Neuroinform., 16 February 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fninf.2018.00002

HBP Student Conference:

An interdisciplinary programme by young researchers – for young researchers

From 14-16 February 2018, the 2nd HBP Student Conference took place in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Under the motto “Transdisciplinary Research Linking Neuroscience, Brain Medicine and Computer Science”, 94 students and young researchers, speakers, tutors and organisers participated in a diverse programme comprising keynote talks by renowned experts from within and outside the HBP as well as dedicated student sessions. The conference provided an open forum for extensive scientific discussions and the exchange of new ideas across the various disciplines and also was an ideal opportunity for young scientists to present their research to their peers as well as senior scientists.

Find out more about HBP Education Programme events and activities.

The HBP Education Programme is an interdisciplinary teaching programme offering innovative training formats for young researchers working in and between the fields of neuroscience, ICT and medicine.


Understanding relationships between sensorimotor actions, consciousness and representations (SP3)

February 2018 – An opinion paper by Cyriel Pennartz presents an argument against a predominant role of sensorimotor actions in generating conscious representations, and proposes a strong coupling between consciousness and goal-directed, deliberative actions as an alternative. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2017.10.006



World’s Brain Initiatives Move Forward Together (SP11)

11 12 2017 – A declaration to establish an International Brain Initiative has been made by representatives from some of the world’s major brain research projects, including the Human Brain Project.



How to simulate the structural plasticity of the brain at unprecedented scale (SP7)

07. 12. 2017 – The neural network of the brain is not hardwired. Even in the mature brain, new connections between neurons are formed and existing ones are deleted. Understanding the dynamics of the connectome will allow insights into how learning, memory, and healing after lesions such as stroke work. This is the aim of the Model of Structural Plasticity (MSP) by Butz and van Ooyen, which describes under which conditions neurons connect to each other. However, because MSP computes connection probabilities for all pairs of neurons, the effort increases with the square of the number of neurons, which is prohibitive for large-scale simulations. Sebastian Rinke from TU Darmstadt and his colleagues now present a scalable approximation algorithm for MSP that reduces the complexity to O(n·log2n) without any notable impact on the quality of the results. The team demonstrates scalability for up to 109 neurons. Moreover, performance extrapolations suggest that given a sufficiently large machine the algorithm can even simulate neuron counts as found in the human brain (1011).
Link to paper: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0743731517303313?via%3Dihub


Virtually studying rehabilitation-induced cortical remapping after stroke (SP10)

On the Neurorobotics Platform a virtual rodent can be accessed for experiments, consisting of a musculoskeletal and spinal cord model and a data-driven whole brain model. It can be used to simulate the motor rehabilitation procedure after stroke, more specifically the learning of a forelimb pulling task with simultaneous intracranial recording. The development has been carried out within “Co-Design Project 1 - Development of the Whole Mouse Brain Model and the Related Mouse Brain Atlas”. Results can be compared with real-life experimental data.


The millisecond conversation between brain and eye (SP4)

19. 12. 2017 – Three times a second, 10,000 times every hour, your eyes saccade, jump in unison, shifting their focus from one spot in the visual field to another. And yet the world never appears to leap about or shake as it would if a camera were doing the same. Why? Human Brain Project scientist Lars Muckli and his team at Glasgow University have shown that the brain helps achieve this smoothness by predicting what it will see next. In a study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports Muckli and his team showed there were both feed-forward and feedback mechanisms operating in the visual cortex.



Third European Day of Coma organized by University of LIEGE  (SP3)

This meeting took place on November 8th, 2017 and was organized by the GIGA consciousness and Coma Science Group with the theme of organ donation and associated ethics. The program included lectures by Professor Steven Laureys among others and testimonials from families of donor patients, transplant patients and recipients. http://www.giga.uliege.be/cms/c_214826/en/3eme-journee-europeenne-du-coma


Epilepsy: Building Personalised Models of the Brain (SP4)

NOV. 29, 2017 – Human Brain Project scientist Viktor Jirsa is the head of a team creating personalised brain models for patients with intractable epilepsy. In this article, he explains the process and how the HBP’s brain models and cross-displinary collaborations are central to a new way of targeting epilepsy surgery. https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/en/follow-hbp/news/the-power-of-a-personalised-model-of-the-patients-brain/

Publication and symposium on the neural correlates of consciousness (SP3)

08. 11. 2017 – HBP partners including Johan Storm, Marcello Massimini, and Cyriel Pennartz organized a symposium on consciousness in collaboration with Christof Koch (Allen Institute for Brain Science) at SfN annual meeting 2017 in Washington, D.C and wrote an associated mini-review on consciousness in the Journal of Neuroscience.


HBP Pilot System JURON in top 5 of IO500 ranking (SP7)

November 2017 – The HBP Pilot System JURON, developed by IBM and NVIDIA and based on POWER8 processors, Tesla P100 GPUs and an InfiniBand network, was highly ranked in the new IO500 list - a new High Performance Computing (HPC) storage ranking which debuted at SC17. In the overall ranking based on filesystem bandwidth, JURON is fifth, which is quite an accomplishment considering the varying magnitudes of the systems involved. For some per-client benchmarks, it was even ranked first. What does this mean for HBP research? HBP scientists have access to cutting edge HPC systems, designed for neuroscience, with a focus on dense memory integration, scalable visualisation and dynamic resource management. The requirements from the HBP led to a system architecture that also pushes the limits of HPC. The HBP Pilot Systems JURON and JULIA are directly available to the HBP community, without the need to submit a peer-reviewed proposal, which is the de-facto standard for getting access to HPC systems.

Further Info: https://www.nextplatform.com/2017/11/15/io-500-goes-no-hpc-storage-metric-gone/



HBP researchers describe two new classes of neurons (SP1)

01. 11. 2017 – An international team of HBP scientists has identified two new classes of pyramidal neurons, termed “slim-tufted” and “profuse-tufted”, after their characteristic anatomical features. They were identified by analyzing a data set of 60 3D reconstructed pyramidal neurons from the human temporal cortex. The two classes also differ in their electrical properties, as the “profuse-tufted” cells tend to fire at higher rates. The new insights further our understanding of nerve cell architecture and signaling in the human brain and are incorporated into the in silico research platforms of HBP.

Click here to read the paper published in Cerebral Cortex


The brain is still ‘connected’ during non-REM sleep (SP3)

November 2017 – New research shows the brain remains interconnected during non-REM sleep, which was thought not to happen. The finding by a team of European researchers as part of the Human Brain Project has also made it possible to analyse the scientific basis of consciousness, an increasingly important field of neuroscience. The results were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.


Progress in building Europe’s new platform for understanding the brain (SP11)

20. 10. 2017 – Over 500 scientists and engineers from 19 countries met in Glasgow at the 5thSummit of the Human Brain Project. This press release gives an overview on the HBP’s progress towards building a unified platform for a comprehensive understanding of the human brain and its diseases.



The thalamus and critical-period plasticity (SP3)

16. 10. 2017 – A Nature Neuroscience publication on critical-period plasticity shows the unrecognized role of the thalamus in regulating ocular dominance plasticity. http://doi:10.1038/s41593-017-0002-3

This regulation was previously attributed only to the cortex. This article is further discussed by a News and Views article dedicated to the publication. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-017-0019-7


Zülich-prize for research into consciousness (SP3)

08. 09. 2017 – Steven Laureys received the Klaus Joachim Zülch 2017 prize from the Max Planck Society. He was honored for his “fundamental discoveries in the neurology of consciousness and coma.” See for more information:



SpiNNaker-1 – A Spiking Neural Network Model of the Lateral Geniculate Nucleus (SP9)

09 08 2017 – A model with a synaptic layout which is consistent with biology has been used to simulate biologically plausible dynamics of the Lateral Geniculate Nucleus (LGN) on the neuromorphic computing system SpiNNaker. In the brain, the LGN is a distinct structure in the Thalamus, with an important functional role in vision. The model response is validated with existing literature reporting entrainment in so-called SSVEPs – or steady state visually evoked potentials – a type of brain oscillation corresponding to periodic visual stimuli recorded
via electroencephalography (EEG).

For more info see Sen-Bhattacharya et al. 2017, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2017.00454


Rich cell-type-specific network topology in neocortical microcircuitry (SP6)

05. 07. 2017 – Uncovering structural regularities and architectural topologies of cortical circuitry is vital for understanding neural computations. In a paper published in Nature Neuroscience, the group of Idan Segev of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in collaboration with the Cells & Circuits team in the Simulation Neuroscience Division of the Blue Brain, and Tel Aviv University identified a rich cell-type-specific network topology in neocortical microcircuitry. The systematic approach presented in the paper has enabled interpretation of microconnectomics ‘big data’, and provided several experimentally testable predictions. https://www.nature.com/articles/nn.4576


Distinct feedforward and feedback effects of microstimulation in visual cortex reveal neuronal mechanisms of texture segregation (SP2)

05. 07. 2017 – In this publication HBP researchers probed interactions between visual cortical areas V1 and V4 with electrical microstimulation. Their results reveal functional differences between feedforward and feedback processing in texture segregation and suggest a specific modulating role for feedback connections in perceptual organization. The results were published in the journal Neuron.



Neuroanatomy and Global Neuroscience (SP1)

05. 07. 2017 – In an article for the journal Neuron, SP1-leader Javier de Phillipe highlights that collaboration is worldwide collaboration will be key to understanding the brain. He writes “Our brains are like a dense forest – a complex, seemingly impenetrable terrain of interacting cells mediating cognition and behavior. However, we should view the challenge of understanding the brain with optimism, provided that we choose appropriate strategies for the development of global neuroscience.”



Understanding vision with the help of neurorobotics (SP10)

A modular, flexible visual system is in development that any neuroscientist or roboticist could use for his/her own purpose is in development on the Neurorobotics Platform (NRP). The idea is to integrate many models for different functions of the visual system to the NRP and use it as a unique framework for compatibility between the models. Already integrated are a retina model for gain control and retinal magnification, a cortical model for visual segmentation, a deep neural network for visual saliency computation, and a model for saccade generation. From there two different NRP experiments have been built. The first one is done by a neuroscientist and investigates how pure bottom-up influence from the saliency model can drive visual segmentation. The predictions of this system corroborate behavioral experiments about visual grouping. The second one is done by a roboticist and aims at creating a robotic system that uses visual attention and saccade generation in a short-term visual memory task.
See also: What a one-eyed robot can teach us about the brain


New web-based interactive 3D viewer for Terabyte-sized brain templates (SP5)

A web-based 3D viewer for exploring Terabyte-sized brain templates together with their surfaces and parcellations has been developed by the team of Timo Dickscheid at Forschungszentrum Jülich, in collaboration with the group of Jan Bjaalie at University of Oslo. The tool works right out of a modern web browser. It is based on the opensource project "neuroglancer" from the Google labs, with significant extensions optimized for navigating whole brain volumes and an API that makes it easy to embed the viewer into more complex, interactive online atlas applications. The viewer itself is in use to display, navigate and interact with human (BigBrain, JuBrain) and rodent (Waxholm Rat Atlas, Allen Mouse Brain Atlas) 3D reference atlases. In parallel, the Jülich team works on a complex interactive atlas browser which embeds the 3D viewer, and provides extended functionality to browse brain region hierarchies, access probabilistic maps, and especially develop custom plugins for exploration and analysis of atlas data.


BrainScaleS-1 – Training a deep spiking network on the wafer system (SP9)

03 07 2017 – Emulating spiking neural networks on analog neuromorphic hardware offers several advantages over simulating them on conventional computers, particularly in terms of speed and energy consumption. However, this usually comes at the cost of reduced control over the dynamics of the emulated networks. In this paper, HBP scientists working on the BrainScaleS wafer-scale neuromorphic system demonstrate how iterative training of a hardware-emulated network can compensate for this. After training, the deep network running BrainScaleS-1 performed a so-called MNIST benchmark, an image-recognition task in which hand-written numbers have to be recognized. It showed accuracy close to the ideal software-emulated prototype.

Detailed information is available in Schmitt et al. 2017, https://doi.org/10.1109/IJCNN.2017.7966125


HBP welcomes two new advisory boards (SP11)

18. 07. 2017 – Openness, Transparency and Outreach are key values for the HBP in order to bring in the best scientific and clinical groups onto the platform at the scales needed to make an impact. To provide guidance on the road ahead, both a Scientific Advisory Board  and a Clinical Advisory Board  with international experts have been established and started their work The members come from research facilities in Europe, Japan, Israel and the United States. (Full member lists here and here).


HBP welcomes two new advisory boards (SP11)

18. 07. 2017 – Openness, Transparency and Outreach are key values for the HBP in order to bring in the best scientific and clinical groups onto the platform at the scales needed to make an impact. To provide guidance on the road ahead, both a Scientific Advisory Board  and a Clinical Advisory Board  with international experts have been established and started their work The members come from research facilities in Europe, Japan, Israel and the United States. (Full member lists here and here).



HBP researchers describe the response to physiological and pathological discharge patterns (SP1)

01. 07. 2016 – The study enables the construction of precise neuronal network models that may help us to understand how network dynamics is generated and how it can underlie information processing and pathological conditions in the brain.

It describes quantitatively the connectivity and synaptic interactions of two classes of inhibitory neurons in the hippocampal CA3 area (parvalbumin‐positive and cholecystokinin‐positive interneurons), a key region for the generation of behaviourally relevant synchronous activity patterns. As a result, detailed biophysical models of hippocampal synapses are constructed in HBP.

Click here to read the paper published in J. Physiol.


Release of the first batch of more than 500 MRI images on NeuroVault (SP2)

The release consists of high-resolution MRI images which represent activations of 12 subjects of the Individual Brain Charting (IBC) cohort for the first set of functional contrasts. This is the first step towards normative datasets that will be the basis of a brain atlas based on cognitive representations.



A First Principles Approach to Memory Recall (SP4)

 7 June 2017 – HBP theoretical neuroscientist Dr Misha Tsodyks is attempting to provide a first principles approach to understanding the free recall of memory. With his collaborators Mikhail Katkov and Sandro Romani, Tsodyks recently published a perspective in Neuron that sought to demonstrate a first principles approach to understanding memory retrieval. Read more:


HBP contributions to Neuron special issue 'How Does the Brain Work?'

June 2017 – Human Brain Project researchers have contributed to five new theoretical Perspectives in Neuron’s special issue How Does the Brain Work? With contributions from theoretical and experimental neuroscientists, the special issue aims to offer “insights into the strengths and challenges of current brain models and how these theoretical frameworks can motivate experimental work to deepen our understanding”.


Largest and most powerful MRI magnet in the world installed at CEA Saclay (SP2)

18. 05. 2017 – The new MRI magnet installed at NeuroSpin research facility at the CEA's Paris-Saclay Center (Essonne) generates a magnetic field of 11.7 tesla. It allows for MRI images of the human brain in ultra-high resolution.



Nature Neuroscience: How to improve data analysis and sharing in neuroimaging using MRI (SP2)

23. 02. 2017 – HPB researchers contributed to this article in Nature Neuroscience, defining best practices in data analysis and sharing in neuroimaging using MRI, to promote reproducibility, transparency, reliability and collaboration, enabling the community to fully exploit the potential of the world’s neuroimaging data.



Article in Lancet Neurology:
Understanding the brain through large, multidisciplinary research initiatives

15. 02. 2017 – The multidisciplinary and multicenter approach needed to tackle the issues around understanding the brain are highlighted in an article in Lancet Neurology. Written by representatives of three of the leading brain research initiatives (HBP in Europe, BRAIN in the US and Brain/MINDS in Japan), together with members of the European Commission and the European Parliament, the article highlights issues from the recent STOA workshop held at the European Parliament. An editorial piece in the same March 2017 issue of Lancet Neurology also explains the successful adjustments the Flagship HBP has made since its inception, and offers some suggestions for fruitful engagement with the scientific community in the future.