IBM links with Swiss team to build model of brain

IBM is linking with a team of Swiss scientists to create the world's first accurate, computer-based model of the brain.

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By  Stuart Qualtrough Published  June 7, 2005

International Business Machines Corp (IBM) is linking with a team of Swiss scientists to create the world's first accurate, computer-based model of the brain, the US company revealed this week. The researchers hope that modelling the brain at the cellular level will give new insights into the workings of the most complex organ in the body. The immediate goal is to model the circuitry in the neocortex, which accounts for about 85% of the human brain's mass and is thought to be responsible for language, learning, memory and complex thought. By expanding the work to other areas, scientists hope to eventually generate a computer-based model of the entire brain. Henry Markram and colleagues at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland, will spend the next two years using IBM's supercomputer Blue Gene to create a working 3-dimensional model of the neocortex. The model will need to recreate all the myriad electrochemical interactions of the brain's interior. Markram said the project is one of the most ambitious neuroscience research initiatives ever undertaken, because of the hundreds of thousands of parameters will have to be taken into account. The Blue Gene system to be installed in Lausanne will have a peak processing speed of at least 22.8 trillion floating-point operations per second, or 22.8 teraflops. Five years ago, no supercomputer in the world was capable of more than one teraflop.

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