Artificial Intelligence - What Is The Blue Brain Project (BBP)?


The brain, with its 100 billion neurons, is one of the most complicated physical systems known.

It is an organ that takes constant effort to comprehend and interpret.

Similarly, digital reconstruction models of the brain and its activity need huge and long-term processing resources.

The Blue Brain Project, a Swiss brain research program supported by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), was founded in 2005. Henry Markram is the Blue Brain Project's founder and director.

The purpose of the Blue Brain Project is to simulate numerous mammalian brains in order to "ultimately, explore the stages involved in the formation of biological intelligence" (Markram 2006, 153).

These simulations were originally powered by IBM's BlueGene/L, the world's most powerful supercomputer system from November 2004 to November 2007.

In 2009, the BlueGene/L was superseded by the BlueGene/P.

BlueGene/P was superseded by BlueGene/Q in 2014 due to a need for even greater processing capability.

The BBP picked Hewlett-Packard to build a supercomputer (named Blue Brain 5) devoted only to neuroscience simulation in 2018.

The use of supercomputer-based simulations has pushed neuroscience research away from the physical lab and into the virtual realm.

The Blue Brain Project's development of digital brain reconstructions enables studies to be carried out in a "in silico" environment, a Latin pseudo-word referring to modeling of biological systems on computing equipment, using a regulated research flow and methodology.

The possibility for supercomputers to turn the analog brain into a digital replica suggests a paradigm change in brain research.

One fundamental assumption is that the digital or synthetic duplicate will act similarly to a real or analog brain.

Michael Hines, John W. Moore, and Ted Carnevale created the software that runs on Blue Gene hardware, a simulation environment called NEURON that mimics neurons.

The Blue Brain Project may be regarded a typical example of what was dubbed Big Science following World War II (1939–1945) because of the expanding budgets, pricey equipment, and numerous interdisciplinary scientists participating.


Furthermore, the scientific approach to the brain via simulation and digital imaging processes creates issues such as data management.

Blue Brain joined the Human Brain Project (HBP) consortium as an initial member and submitted a proposal to the European Commission's Future & Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship Program.

The European Union approved the Blue Brain Project's proposal in 2013, and the Blue Brain Project is now a partner in a larger effort to investigate and undertake brain simulation.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.

See also: 

General and Narrow AI; Human Brain Project; SyNAPSE.

Further Reading

Djurfeldt, Mikael, Mikael Lundqvist, Christopher Johansson, Martin Rehn, Örjan Ekeberg, Anders Lansner. 2008. “Brain-Scale Simulation of the Neocortex on the IBM Blue Gene/L Supercomputer.” IBM Journal of Research and Development 52, no. 1–2: 31–41.

Markram, Henry. 2006. “The Blue Brain Project.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 7, no. 2: 153–60.

Markram, Henry, et al. 2015. “Reconstruction and Simulation of Neocortical Microcircuitry.” Cell 63, no. 2: 456–92.

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