Scientist: Human brain could be replicated in 10 years

Sep 07, 2009
Activity in the brain's neocortex is tightly controlled by inhibitory neurons shown here which prevent epilepsy (Blue Brain Project; Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne)

A model that replicates the functions of the human brain is feasible in 10 years according to neuroscientist Professor Henry Markram of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland. ‘I absolutely believe it is technically and biologically possible. The only uncertainty is financial. It is an extremely expensive project and not all is yet secured.'

The apparent complexity of the human mind is not a barrier to building a ‘replica' brain claims Professor Markram. ‘The brain is of course extremely complex because it has trillions of synapses, billions of neurons, millions of proteins, and thousands of . But they are still finite in number. Today's technology is already highly sophisticated and it allows us to reverse engineer the brain rapidly'. An example of the capability already in place is that today's robots can do screenings and mappings tens of thousands of times faster than human scientists and technicians.

Another hurdle on the path to a model human brain is that 100 years of neuroscience discovery has led to millions of fragments of data and knowledge that have never been brought together and exploited fully. ‘Actually no- one even knows what we already understand about the brain', says Professor Markram, ‘A model would serve to bring this all together and then allow anyone to test whatever theory you want about the brain. The biggest challenge is to understand how electrical-magnetic-chemical patterns in the brain convert into our perception of reality. We think we see with our eyes, but in fact most of what we ‘see' is generated as a projection by your brain. So what are we actually looking at when we look at something ‘outside' of us?'

For Professor Markram, the most exciting part of his research is putting together the hundreds of thousands of small pieces of data that his lab has collected over the past 15 years, and seeing what a microcircuit of the brain looks like. ‘When we first switched it on it already started to display some interesting emergent properties. But this is just the beginning because we know now that it is possible to build it. As we progress we are learning about design secrets of our brains which were unimaginable before. In fact the brain uses some simple rules to solve highly complex problems and extracting each of these rules one by one is very exciting. For example we have been surprised at finding simple design principles that allow billions of neurons to connect to each other. I think we will understand how the brain is designed and works before we have finished building it'.

The opportunities for this neuroscience research challenge are immense explains Professor Markram: ‘A brain model will sit on a massive supercomputer and serve as a kind of educational and diagnostic service to society. As the industrial revolution in science progresses we will generate more data than anyone can track or any computer can store, so models that can absorb it are simply unavoidable. It is also essential to build models when it comes to treating brain diseases affecting around two billion people. At present, there is no brain disease for which we really understand what has gone wrong in the processing, in the circuits, neurons or synapses. It is also important if we are to replace the need for the millions of animal experiments each year for research'.

Source: AlphaGalileo

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User comments : 15

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mvg
not rated yet Sep 07, 2009
Good morning Dr Frankenstein!

Gresh
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2009
Yeah maybe they should talk to the AI guys before they start making predictions about when technology will be ready.

Modeling membrane protein interactions of large volumes of cells in real-time will be revolutionary tech for understanding how diseases and viruses affect cells. Though even being able to completely model a single cell would be a pretty useful starting point.
bender3001
1 / 5 (1) Sep 08, 2009
yeah, right, and we shold call this supercomputer Skynet and he should start building terminators...
poi
not rated yet Sep 08, 2009
idem sonans
"here's a sneak preview... but wait! if you want more, show me the money!"
reminds me of hunter x where the processor and memory of the hunter database used real human brain.
(yes, one can find inspiration in fiction)
we can use human brains of dead people to...
neeh, forget it. defending against moralists would be exhausting.
vivisection itself is tiring. (although they say it's really empathically perplexing to kill a monkey because they cry on you... silently.)
Simonsez
not rated yet Sep 08, 2009
In 10 years? This guy must have been reading Kurzweil's Singularity Event stuff.
googleplex
not rated yet Sep 08, 2009
Look up the Blue Brain Project.
I am sure this guy got his estimate from his Swiss colleagues working on Blue Brain.
The project is apparently on track and doing well.
The upcoming revolution will put out us all out of work which will raise some interesting social questions.
We can only hope that these new super-intelligent beings treat us well.


Fazer
not rated yet Sep 08, 2009
Sometimes it does seem to be inevitable that software intelligence will replace the natural, biological kind. The only question is whether or not it will be AI constructs that replace us, or if we can expand our own minds and intellects by adding on capabilities until we reach the point where we are more software than wet ware, at which point we may elect to abandon our bodies and be all software.

I had hoped the latter, but this article suggests, perhaps, the former.

Then again, we might "evolve" along side our AI constructs, much as Kurzweil predicts.

I wonder: At what point will some people get scared and start pushing for laws to restrict this type of research?
hoy7t
not rated yet Sep 09, 2009
HAL 9000: I'm completely operational, and all my circuits are functioning perfectly.

Look Dave, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.
droid001
not rated yet Sep 11, 2009
"The biggest challenge is to understand how electrical-magnetic-chemical patterns in the brain convert into our perception of reality"
Does the brain can create their own reality?
Maybe there is third part ...broadcaster ?
otto1923
not rated yet Sep 12, 2009
Then again, we might "evolve" along side our AI constructs, much as Kurzweil predicts.
Who's going to tell them what to do? As capable as AI might get, I don't see it as 'wanting' to do anything. I think we would always be their motivation; their/our Will.
otto1923
not rated yet Sep 12, 2009
In 10 years? This guy must have been reading Kurzweil's Singularity Event stuff
Well, look at the human genome project. The time and money it took, and now we can do a genome in a long weekend.
zevkirsh
not rated yet Sep 13, 2009
i for one welcome our robot overlords.
otto1923
not rated yet Sep 13, 2009
I for one am Magnus, Robot Fighter- Screeee!
http://www.youtub...I4nr4u3A
-Stomp those little suckers.
Somebody thought this video was too perfect to be real. Anybody know about this amazing little gadget or this particular video?
Sean_W
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2009
There was an interesting article recently (Discover Magazine, I believe) about efforts to overcome the energy requirements that would be needed to reproduce the architecture of the human brain using conventional chip architecture. Currently chips use lots of power for every signal to prevent noise but brains use only 20 watts by accommodating noise and using redundancy and timing to distingush signal from noise and some of the noise can add an element of spontaneous creativity to the system. It sounds like this insight will be part of the solution (unless, as one of the researcher said, we want to have robots carrying hydroelectric plants arround with them)
Sean_W
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2009
I for one am Magnus, Robot Fighter- Screeee!
http://www.youtub...I4nr4u3A
-Stomp those little suckers.
Somebody thought this video was too perfect to be real. Anybody know about this amazing little gadget or this particular video?


I think the robot model name is Qurio (spelling ?) and it is made by Sony I believe. I think they are on the market but dance routines like that would probably require a developer - though I understand that they were hoping that people would create and distribute behaviors for the robot so they could sell the memory sticks that they use.

Robots are good at precision movements and timing so dance programs are kind of misleading as to how sophisticated the software running the robot is but it is a great way to illustrate how advanced the hardware is in these little fellows.

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