Thursday, May 08, 2008

Henry Markram - Blue Brain Robotics

Talking Robots: Henry Markram - The Blue Brain Project In this episode of Talking Robots we speak with Henry Markram who is the director of the Blue Brain Project, director of the Center for Neuroscience & Technology and co-director of EPFL's Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland.

While most roboticists have been working on abstracting the brain, the Blue Brain project has been painting the whole picture of a rat neocortical column (NCC) from the bottom up; starting with the cells, neurons, and finally pulling the connections which generate the jungle of the mind (see video below).

Thanks to their collaboration with IBM and the resulting Blue Gene supercomputer, their simulations of a 10'000 neuron NCC have been shown to correctly reproduce in-vivo experiments on the rat. Markram's team is now digging deeper in to the molecular level and will eventually build up an entirely reverse-engineered model of the human brain (aimed for 2015). Because the functioning of the brain is a result of more than just the sum of its parts, it seems that modeling our grey matter as a whole might result in emergent features such as consciousness or self representation and provide necessary tools for the study of brain disorders such as Alzheimer's or Autism.

Finally, robots embedded with an in-silico replication of the brain might not only be more efficient in communicating, showing emotions and planning, they will also serve as essential testbeds to better understand what's happening in our head.



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