Mammal and Human Brain Projects

Last update : August 6, 2013

Human Brain Project (2013)

The Human Brain Project (HBP) was submitted on 23 October 2012 for funding under the European Union’s FET Flagship program. FET (Future & Emerging Technologies) flagships are ambitious large-scale, science-driven, research initiatives that aim to achieve a visionary goal. On January 28, 2013, the European Commission has officially announced the selection of the Human Brain Project as one of its two FET Flagship projects.

The goal of the HBP is to understand and mimic the way the human brain works. The Blue Brain Project’s success has demonstrated the feasibility of the HBP general strategy.

The project will be coordinated by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and will be hosted at the NEUROPOLIS platform. The HBP team will include many of Europe’s best neuroscientists, doctors, physicists, mathematicians, computer engineers and ethicists. The leaders of the different sub-groups are : Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, CEA, Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Karolinska Institutet, Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois, Universität Heidelberg, Technische Universität München, Institut Pasteur. In total more than 120 teams in 90 scientific institutions from 22 countries will contribute to the HBP. A full list of partners and collaborators is presented at the HBP website. The HBP will be open by involving groups and individual scientists who are not members of the original consortium.This will be handled by the HBP Competitive Calls Programme.

The Human Brain Project has the potential to revolutionize technology, medicine, neuroscience, and society. It will drive the development of new technologies for supercomputing and for scientific visualization. Models of the brain will allow us to design computers, robots, sensors and other devices far more powerful, more intelligent and more energy efficient than any we know today. Brain simulation will help us understand the root causes of brain diseases, to diagnose them early, to develop new treatments, and to reduce reliance on animal testing. The project will also throw new light on questions human beings have been asking for more than two and a half thousand years. What does it mean to perceive, to think, to remember, to learn, to know, to decide? What does it mean to be conscious?

A video of the HBP is available at the Vimeo website.

The HBP is organized in thirteen subprojects :

Blue Brain Project (2005)

The Blue Brain Project is an attempt to create a synthetic brain by reverse-engineering the mammalian brain down to the molecular level. The aim of the project, founded in May 2005 by the Brain and Mind Institute of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), is to study the brain’s architectural and functional principles. The project is headed by the Institute’s director, Henry Markram.

Using an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer running Michael Hines‘s NEURON software, the simulation involves a biologically realistic model of neurons. There are numerous sub-projects run by universities and independent laboratories.

The current version 7.2 of NEURON is available as a cross-platform program under a GNU GPL licence from the universities Yale and Duke.

A ten-year documentary film-in-the-making about the race to reverse engineer the human brain is available at the Bluebrain Film website.

In the future the Blue Brain Project will be part of the Human Brain Project.

Brain Architecture Projects (2009)

The Brain Architecture Project is a collaborative effort aimed at creating an integrated resource containing knowledge about nervous system architecture in multiple species, with a focus on mouse and human. The Brain Architecture Project Principal Investigator is Partha P. Mitra, professor at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL).

The goal of the Mouse Brain Architecture (MBA) Project is to generate brainwide maps of inter-regional neural connectivity. These maps will thus specify the inputs and outputs of every brain region, at a mesoscopic level of analysis corresponding to brain compartments defined in classical neuroanatomy.

The Human Brain Architecture Project includes several components related to the human brain : The Online Brain Atlas Reconciliation Tool (OBART), The Human Brain Connectivity Database and the Co-expression networks of genes related to addiction.

The Brain Architecture Team has also been working on two prototype systems (Text Mining) for information extraction (IE) of knowledge related to brain architecture from a large text corpus containing approximately 55,000 full-text journal articles.

Brain Reverse Engineering Lab (2011)

This project is headed by Witali L. Dunin-Barkowski, Head of the Department of Neuroinformatics at the Center for Optical Neural Technologies of the Scientific Research Institute for System Analysis of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The main initial task of the laboratory will be the creation of open-access scientific, technological and engineering internet-resource in a form of a specialized database of knowledge on mechanisms of brain work. It is supposed that as a result of the planned work at the end of 2015 the project’s team will elaborate the full detailed description of the mechanisms of human brain. It will be possible to use this description to make in the following years a full scale working analog of the human brain, based on technological informational elements and devices.

FET flagship initiatives

Last update : August 9, 2013

In 2009, the European Commission presented the strategy for research on future and emerging technologies in Europe : Moving the ICT frontiers. One action point was the identification and launch of FET flagship initiatives.

“A FET flagship initiative could model and run large-scale simulations in order to understand the way nature processes information and to apply this knowledge to develop future biocomputers. Such a unique endeavour would attract the best computer scientists, biologists and physicists from Europe and beyond.”

The official launch of the FET Flagship Pilots took place at The European Future Technologies Conference and Exhibition (FET11) in May 2011 under the auspices of the Hungarian presidency in Budapest.

Six FET Flagship pilots have been funded to create a design and description of consolidated candidate FET Flagship Initiatives, including assessment of feasibility in scientific, technical and financial terms. These six pilots are listed below :

On January 29, 2013, Vice-President Neelie Kroes from the European Commission announced the two research projects chosen as winners of the FET Flagships initiative: Graphene and Human Brain Project.

Neuroscience and Neurobiology

Last update : August 10, 2013

Neuroscience

Neurons “Blue Brain Project”

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system, mainly the brain. In the past neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. Today it is an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, physics, and psychology.

Recent theoretical advances in neuroscience have been aided by the study of neural networks.

Neurobiology is sometimes used as a synonym, although it refers specifically to the biology of the nervous system. Neurobiology is studied at numerous universities : Harvard, Stanford, Yale, UCLA, Duke, Austin, …

Several prominent neuroscience organizations have been formed to provide a forum to all neuroscientists :

A public education booklet about the brain and neuroscience has been published by the IBRO.

In June 2012, EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) launched the NEUROPOLIS project, a global Neuroscience Hub, with the partnership of the Universities of Lausanne and Geneva. Two entities will be constructed :

  • A research infrastructure in Lausanne, constructed on the grounds of the institutions of higher learning, UNIL-EPFL
  • A research infrastructure in Geneva, near the University Hospital, including a new Institute of Translational Molecular Imaging (UNIGE)

NEUROPOLIS will establish an institute of international stature. Like CERN in the field of physics, NEUROPOLIS unites neuroscientists and biologists from around the world. The initiator of the project is Henry Markram, the Director of the Human Brain Project at EPFL. NEUROPOLIS will also be open to the general public : an interactive space will be dedicated to neuroscience and the conquest of the brain. A video about the project is available at Dailymotion.

Another famous medical research organization, dedicated to accelerating the understanding of how the human brain works, is the Allen Institute for Brain Science. This Seattle-based nonprofit institute was launched in 2003 by Paul Allen, the co-founder, with Bill Gates, of Microsoft Corporation. The Allen Institute for Brain Science provides researchers and educators with a variety of unique online public resources for exploring the nervous system, which are all openly accessible via the Allen Brain Atlas data portal.

Additional informations about neuroscience and neurobiology are available at the following links :

Cognition and Cognitive Science

Last update : May 3, 2013
Cognition is a group of mental processes that includes attention, memory, language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Cognition is a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. Cognitive processes, can be natural or artificial, conscious or unconscious.

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary investigation of mind and intelligence, embracing psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and computational intelligence. Cognitive Science is focusing on how information is represented, processed, and transformed within nervous systems and machines.

The term cognitive science was coined by Christopher Longuet-Higgins in 1973. In 1979, the Cognitive Science Society was founded.

Links to additional informations about cognitive science are provided in the following list :

2045: A New Era for Humanity

The 2045 Initiative was founded by Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 in partnership with leading Russian scientists. Dmitry Itskov is the founder and President of New Media Stars. He attended the top economics university in Russia and has more than ten years of work experience in media projects.

The main objectives of the 2045 Initiative are:

  • creation of a new vision of human development that meets global challenges humanity faces today
  • realization of the possibility of a radical extension of human life by means of cybernetic technology
  • formation of a new culture associated with these technologies

The 2045 team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.

The main idea is the 2045 Avatar Project which is planned to be conducted in four steps :

The 2045 Avatar Project

  1. creation of a human-like robot dubbed Avatar A and a state-of-the-art brain-computer interface system to link the mind with it
  2. creation of a life support system for the human brain, which connects to the Avatar A, turning into Avatar B
  3. development of an artificial brain in which to transfer one’s individual consciousness with the goal of achieving cybernetic immortality : Avatar C
  4. development of a hologram-like avatar : Avatar D

A video of the 2045 project is available at Youtube.

An annual congress The Global Future 2045 (GF2045) is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind’s evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.

The first annual congress Modeling and Predicting Worldwide Dynamics took place in February 2012 in Moscow. More than 50 scientist, including physicists, biologists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers have been trying to outline a strategy for further development of the humankind. Among the speakers were Eric Chaisson, David Christian, Raymond Kurzweil, John Smart, Fred Spier. Videos and transcripts of the presentations and the round tables are available at the GF2045 website.

The second GF2045 International Congress was held in June 2013 in New York City. Among the speakers were George Church, Sir Roger Penrose, Hiroshi Ishiguro, David Hanson, Marvin Minsky, Ben Goertzel, Raymond Kurzweil.

Intelligence

Last update : August 4, 2013

Intelligence Test

Intelligence Test

Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including, but not limited to, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving. Intelligence is related to humans, animals, plants and machines (artificial intelligence).

A comprehensive definition of intelligence is controversial, what is considered intelligent varies with culture.

Psychometrics are often used to measure Intelligence. An intelligence quotient (IQ) is used to assess intelligence. The abbreviation IQ comes from the German term Intelligenz-Quotient, originally coined by the psychologist William Stern. IQ is a score derived from one of several standardized tests.

When a new IQ test is normed, the standard scoring is calculated so they conform to a normal distribution with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation (SD) of 15. The intention is that approximately 95% of the population scores an IQ between 70 and 130 (within two SDs of the mean).

The average IQ scores for many populations have been rising at an average rate of three points per decade since 1930, a phenomenon called the Flynn effect. It is disputed whether these changes in scores reflect real changes in intellectual abilities. Attempted explanations of the IQ rise have included improved nutrition, a trend toward smaller families, better education, greater environmental complexity, and heterosis.

People having an IQ higher than 130 are considered as very intelligent. Organizations supporting people who are within a certain high percentile of IQ test results are called High IQ societies : the oldest, largest and best-known such society is Mensa International (website : www.mensa.org).

Other high IQ societies are :

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, as a model of intelligence that differentiates intelligence into various specific modalities, rather than seeing it as dominated by a single general ability, was proposed by Howard Gardner in his 1983 book Frames of Mind.

Evo Devo Universe

Evo Devo Universe (EDU) is a global community of theoretical and applied physicists, chemists, biologists, cognitive and social scientists, computer scientists, technologists, philosophers, information theorists, complexity scholars and systems theorists who are interested in better characterizing the relationship and difference between evolutionary and developmental processes in the universe and its subsystems. The project originated from John Smart and Clément Vidal in January 2008.

The first international EDU conference was held in Paris in October 2008. The second international EDU conference is planned in 2013 at the East Coast, USA.

EDU is looking for researchers to collaborate on investigating on free energy rate density (FERD) and its larger human implications, as described in a brief research project overview, created by Clément Vidal.

Cosmic Evolution

Last update : July 17, 2013
Eric Chaisson defined the grand scenario of cosmic evolution as follows :

cosmic evolution = physical evolution + biological evolution + cultural evolution

Eric Chaisson segmented the physical evolution in five epochs :

  • Particulate evolution
  • Galactic evolution
  • Stellar evolution
  • Planetary evolution
  • Chemical evolution
Cosmic Evolution : Time Arrow by Eric Chaisson

From Big Bang to Humankind : Time Arrow by Eric Chaisson

Eric Chaisson uses an time arrow to highlight salient features of cosmic history, from the Big Bang to the present, encompassing 14 Giga Years (Ga). He defined the concept of free energy rate density as the amount of energy that flows through a certain amount of mass during a certain period of time. The concept of power density was not new, but Eric Chaisson has been the first to make a systematic comparison of these values all across nature.

Eric Chaisson’s understanding of the cosmic evolution is related to the Big History.

The following list shows links to websites with further informations about cosmic evolution:

The four laws of thermodynamics and the entropy

The four laws of thermodynamics define fundamental physical quantities (temperature, energy, and entropy) that characterize thermodynamic systems. The laws describe how these quantities behave under various circumstances, and forbid certain phenomena (such as the perpetuum mobile).

The four laws were developed during the 19th and early 20th century. Many researchers consider that the zeroth and third laws follow directly from the frist and second laws, thus that there are really only two fundamental laws of thermodynamics.

Thermodynamic entropy is a measure of how evenly energy is distributed in a system. The term was coined in 1865 by the German physicist Rudolf Clausius.

In a physical system, entropy provides a measure of the amount of energy that cannot be used to do work.

Free Energy Rate Density and STEM Compression

A metric to characterize the complexity of physical, biological and cultural systems in the universe has been proposed by Eric Chaisson. It is called Free Energy Rate Density (FERD). The Evo Devo Universe Community is looking for researchers to collaborate on investigating FERD and its larger human implications.

Birds have higher energy rate densities, compared to humans, probably because they operate in 3 dimensions.

An idea that the most complex of the universe’s extant systems at any time  use progressively less space, time, energy and matter to create the next level of complexity in their evolutionary development has been advocated by John Smart. The concept is called STEM compression (formerly MEST compression).

A list of links to websites dealing with FERD and STEM is shown hereafter :