The Human Brain Project (HBP) is set to achieve a deeper understanding of the brain in a time of breathtaking progress in computing and digital technologies. In this endeavour, the HBP will make two major innovations: first, a new type of science, creating synergy at the interface of empirical research on the brain with advanced computing, and second, an eco-system and new culture of collaboration leading to substantial progress in our understanding of the brain, brain medicine, and brain-inspired technologies.
These innovations go hand in hand with the development of the new digital research infrastructure for collaborative brain research, EBRAINS, a powerful resource created by the HBP for the scientific community at large. This new type of brain research introduces a symbiotic relationship between neuroscience and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), in which researchers and engineers jointly ‘co-design’ technical solutions that are tailored to scientific needs.
The HBP uses powerful methods for advances in three focus areas, targeting brain networks and their role in cognition and consciousness: (1) Multiscale investigation of brain networks, across different spatial and temporal scales, (2) their significance in processes underlying consciousness and disorders of consciousness, (3) as well as the development of artificial neural networks derived from the brain. The HBP also looks at the social and ethical implications of its work; this includes reflection on our understanding of consciousness, animal research, patient anonymity, etc., and engages with the public on these issues.
We can only begin to achieve targeted interventions in brain dysfunction if we understand how these networks are built and how they function. Thinking of the brain as an embodied network allows us to draw inspiration from it when developing new technologies. Novel insights into the brain’s information processing and network structure also provide a blueprint for R&D in neuromorphic computing and AI, including deep learning as well as neurorobotics.
The approach outlined above is implemented in three cross-disciplinary Science Work Packages (WP) that make optimal use of the EBRAINS research infrastructure and contribute to the development of the ERBAINS Data, Modelling, and Compute Services.
- The human multiscale connectome and its variability (WP1) focuses on the human multiscale brain connectome and its variability, integrating several strategic HBP developments such as the Brain Atlases, multiscale subcellular and cellular data-driven models, and a large-scale network model.
- Networks underlying brain cognition and consciousness (WP2) generates data-driven models that carry out cognitive tasks – such as object recognition or decision-making-, while expressing realistic brain dynamics in different states (sleep, awake, anesthesia, etc).
- Adaptive networks for cognitive architectures (WP3) contributes to improved understanding of biological learning networks, emulating the architecture and operation of the brain and applying them to address cognitive problems in an embodied setting. This results in concepts and algorithms for innovative neuro-inspired technologies, both hardware (neuromorphic, neurorobotics), and network architectures.
The EBRAINS Research Infrastructure, as a whole, is built upon three pillars: Data, Models and Computing Infrastructure. Each of these pillars constitute a Work Package (WP) which delivers a set of Service Categories.
The infrastructure Work Packages comprise:
- EBRAINS Data Services (WP4)
- EBRAINS Modelling Services (WP5)
- EBRAINS Computing Services (WP6)