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HBP

The Human Brain Project - More Information

The Human Brain Project (HBP) is a European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship that aims to accelerate our understanding of the human brain, enable advances in defining and diagnosing brain disorders, and develop new brain-like technologies.

The HBP is organized in thirteen subprojects, spanning strategic neuroscience data, cognitive architectures, theory, ethics and society, management and the development of six new informatics-based platforms including: 

  • Neuroinformatics (searchable atlases and analysis of brain data)
  • Brain Simulation (building and simulating multi-level models of brain circuits and functions)
  • High Performance Computing (providing the necessary supercomputing infrastructure)
  • Medical Informatics (analysing clinical data to better understand brain diseases)
  • Neuromorphic Computing (brain-like functions implemented in hardware)
  • Neurorobotics (testing brain models and simulations in virtual environments)
  • High Performance Computing (providing the necessary computing power)
These platforms will be accessible through the HBP Collaboratory – an internet portal specifically designed to enable and enhance collaboration and team science. These platforms will also serve as the focal point for an educational programme designed to engage and train the next generation of scientists. All this research will be closely monitored to ensure the ethical use of data and responsible research and innovation with active roles for scientists, philosophers, ethicists, policy makers and members of society.

A major goal of the HBP is to deliver a collaboratively built first draft “scaffold” model and simulation of the human brain by 2023.
This will not be a complete simulation of every detail, but rather provide a framework for integrating data and knowledge related to the structure and function of the human brain from research and clinical studies around the world. The model and simulations will provide a community test bed for hypotheses and theories of brain function in health and disease. This scaffold model will therefore serve as the heart of a global collaboration to understand the brain.


The subprojects (SPs) of the HBP


• SP1 Strategic Mouse Brain Data Researchers are using a combination of molecular and cellular approaches to contribute to our understanding of mouse brain structure. These data will facilitate a comparative understanding of the mouse and human brains and will be used in SP5’s Mouse Brain Atlas


• SP2 Strategic Human Brain Data Using electron and light microscopy, optical imaging, and magnetic resonance imaging, SP2 researchers are collecting data on the structure and function of the human brain, including connections between regions and the numbers and shapes of different cell types. This information will go into SP5’s Human Brain Atlas.


• SP3 Cognitive Architectures Researchers will study brain activation patterns in cognitive tasks like perception, decision, learning and memory to understand which brain regions and structures are involved, which circuits connect these regions, and what principles of information processing guide these interactions.

• SP4 Theoretical Neuroscience Engages theoretical neuroscientists to identify key principles to bridge the different scales of the brain – using both top-down and bottom-up models —from interactions among molecules to the large-scale patterns of electrical activity observed in imaging studies—and to understand the basic principles underlying cognitive functions. As part of its work, SP4 has established the European Institute for Theoretical Neuroscience (EITN) in Paris.


• SP5 Neuroinformatics The Neuroinformatics Platform being developed by SP5 will allow neuroscientists to organise, search and access the massive volumes of heterogeneous data, knowledge and tools produced by the international neuroscience community. SP5 will also create brain atlases (initially focused on rodent and human).


• SP6 Brain Simulation This team is developing the Brain Simulation Platform, a suite of software tools and workflows that allows researchers to build models of brain circuitry at different levels of biological detail, and to simulate the behaviour of the models on supercomputers.


• SP7 High Performance Computing The High Performance Computing platform will provide the supercomputing, data and visualization hard and software capabilities required for multi-scale brain modelling, simulation and data analyses.


• SP8 Medical Informatics The Medical Informatics Platform provides users with tools to access and analyse large amounts of patient and research data residing at hospitals and other organizations around the world, which have been anonymised and integrated. Convergent patterns in the data (“biological disease signatures”) resulting from data mining and exploration will lead to new classifications of brain disorders which will increase diagnosis accuracy, paving the way for precision medicine. 


• SP9 Neuromorphic Computing This team is designing a new category of computing hardware inspired by the circuitry of the brain to overcome the fundamental limits of conventional technology. The Neuromorphic Computing Platform will provide access to two complementary kinds of hardware system. The first will be built from very fast, energy-efficient analogue devices that emulate the physical processes going on in the brain; the second will be based on very large numbers of digital computing devices.


• SP10 Neurorobotics Researchers are creating the Neurorobotics Platform to provide HBP brain models with a body, designing “closed loop” systems in which brain models are connected to simulated robots operating in a simulated physical environment. The Platform will make it possible to train brain models to perform specific functions and to replicate classical animal and human experiments.


• SP11 Applications Several research groups are undertaking small-scale pilot projects to test and refine the ICT Platforms for research in neuroscience, medicine and computing. The Future Neuroscience pilot project will perform proof-of-concept research on the basic brain mechanisms that govern visual perception. The Future Medicine pilot project will test techniques to identify biological signatures of Alzheimer’s disease. The Future Computing pilot project will use the Neuromorphic Computing Platform to develop an automated, self-training computing system for the analysis of massive science-, business- and security-related datasets.


SP12 Ethics and Society This team explores the social, ethical and philosophical implications of HBP research, promoting engagement with decision-makers and the general public. Key themes arising from the new technologies developed by HBP include possible military applications, personal privacy implications, and our understanding of consciousness. The work ensures that principles of responsible research and innovation are integrated throughout the HBP.


• SP 13 Management The management activities support decision-making, operate the management structure, ensure transparency and accountability, and maintain quality and performance standards. This Subproject coordinates the Project’s science and technology activities and provides support services for the rest of the Project: IT management, communications, legal affairs, industry relations, and the HBP Education Programme.



The KCL Foresight Lab works in the SP12, “Ethics and Society Programme”. 

Events & Outcomes

We take part in a number of internal and external events related to the HBP. 
Together with our partners in SP12, we organise workshops on the issues of future medicine, future neuroscience and future computing technology, including robotics. 
More information on the past and future events, and the research outcomes are available here


Publications
We will prepare reports of the HBP Foresight Lab at 18 months (future medicine), at 24 months (future neuroscience) and 30 months (future computing technology, including robotics). 
Our reports are available here


For further reading 
René von Schomberg, 2014,  ‘Responsible Development of Technologies’ to Responsible Innovation.' Adapted from J. Britt Holbrook and Carl Mitcham. Ethics, Science, Technology, and Engineering: An International Resource (ESTE2), 2E. © 2015 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission.

 
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