Henry Makram: Super computing the brain’s secrets

Henry Makram is director of the Blue Brain project which uses IBM’s Blue Gene computer to simulate a brain. He starts with answering the question: Why do we wish to build a brain?

  1. Key step in evolution
  2. Can’t do animal testing all the time
  3. To build new drugs for mental disorders which are less empirical

He explains one of the theories of how the brain works is by building its own version of the universe where decisions are the key things supporting our perception. 99% of what we see comes for these decisions.  He speaks of a mode of action of anesthesia which works by introducing noise in the brain and thus impairing decision making rather than a model where neurons are numbed. The mode of action of general anesthetics is not well understood.

The blue brain projects aims at testing this hypothesis. How do they do it?  By simulating neurons in a neocortical column. Every neuron is unique, yet the pattern made by a set of neurons of a particular species is same. That’s why we can communicate with each other but not with another species. He ends the talk by quoting that “May be in 10 years we will send a hologram to give a talk at TED.”

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~ by Akshat Rathi on November 22, 2009.

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