82 Researchers Say They Have Reconstructed Part of a Rat Brain Digitally

A virtual brain slice. The Blue Brain Project built a reconstruction of a section of rat brain in a computer, and hopes to do the same with a human brain eventually. (PHOTO CREDIT: Makram et al./Cell 2015)
A virtual brain slice. The Blue Brain Project built a reconstruction of a section of rat brain in a computer, and hopes to do the same with a human brain eventually. (PHOTO CREDIT: Makram et al./Cell 2015)

Building on years of research, 82 researchers from institutions around the world reported Thursday that they had built a reconstruction of a section of a rat brain in a computer.

The research was partly supported by the Human Brain Project, a more than $1 billion, 10-year European research program. The report comes directly from the Blue Brain Project, which aims to reconstruct the rat brain and eventually the human brain in a computer.

Both research programs have been controversial. Hundreds of neuroscientists signed an open letter in 2014 criticizing both the overall project and the feasibility of the reconstruction goal.

Henry Markram, of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, who leads both projects, said that what he and his many colleagues had achieved was the first draft of a functioning map of 30,000 brain cells.

He said this was not yet a proof of principle that scientists could indeed reconstruct the human brain, which contains 85 billion or more neurons, but that it was a first step.

Cori Bargmann, co-director of the new Kavli Neural Systems Institute at Rockefeller University, who has been intimately involved with the Brain Initiative, also a long-term research program, said the report represented an “amazing tour de force” in its accumulation of data.

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SOURCE: NY Times, James Gorman