The HBP made significant progress in the Ramp-Up Phase (October 2013-March 2016), and will continue to advance in SGA1 (April 2016-April 2018). Just one example of the outstanding work carried out by HBP members is the first release of the HBP's six ICT Platforms, providing a wide range of collaborative software and tools to researchers across the globe.
More information about the HBP Platforms is available here.
Selected notable achievements of the Ramp-Up Phase
Digital reconstruction of a crucial part of the rat brain: An international team led by researchers at EPFL produced a draft digital reconstruction of the microcircuitry, i.e. the complex ‘wiring', of the rat neocortex, the part of the brain involved in sensory perception and motor commands. This is a significant accomplishment because it demonstrates that it is possible to make a successful digital approximation of brain tissue, and is an important first step towards digital reconstruction and simulation of the whole brain. The researchers could also validate findings from live (in vivo) experiments and get new information that was not possible from biological experiments, for example the importance of the role of calcium. The results were published in the prestigious journal Cell (Markram H et al. Cell 2015;163:1-37).
European Institute for Theoretical Neuroscience (EITN): The EITN was established in 2014 as part of the HBP's theoretical neuroscience activities, and is operated under the Directorship of Alain Destexhe by a unit of the well-respected Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. The EITN is a prime example of the HBP's openness to the broader scientific community - it creates strong interactions and invites new ideas and theories to the Project. The Institute hosts many workshops, both internal to the HBP and with many non-HBP participants, and invites scientists to conduct relevant research at the EITN for up to three months.
HBP Collaboratory: The HBP Collaboratory, a web-based collaborative portal that integrates all of the HBP's Platforms via a single sign-on procedure, was introduced. The Collaboratory acts as the entry point for the HBP Platforms, and also collects Platform tools (e.g. software, databases, functions) in one place, so that researchers can organise them into their own personal collaborative workspace. Here, the researchers can build their research teams, describe their project, collect the tools they want to use, and share data, ideas, code and workflows.
Neuromorphic computing systems: The University of Heidelberg and University of Manchester are pioneering efforts to develop neuromorphic computing systems, i.e. systems inspired by the way the human brain works. These, and the TrueNorth system by IBM, are the only neuromorphic systems in the world capable of running simulations of brain circuit systems with state-of-the-art models of brain cells (neurons), cell-to-cell connections (synapses) and plasticity (the brain's ability to change) in either real time or accelerated time. Neuromorphic systems are expected to be a new paradigm in computing, and have unparalleled capabilities to study crucial brain characteristics, such as learning, plasticity and development. They offer a new way to analyse and interpret data, and to understand and test scientific hypotheses.