Brainstorming in Athens in the framework of the Human Brain Project10. February 2020
Brainstorming in Athens in the framework of the Human Brain Project
On February 3, 2020, the 7th Summit of the Human Brain Project was opened in Athens, where for one week astounding insights into research on the most complex organ of the body will be presented.
Starting with an overview of the Human Brain Project and the EBRAINS platform, and extending to the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and epilepsy, the first day presented worldwide initiatives on the brain, the field of speech development and the differences between the brains of musicians and the brains of ordinary mortals who only listen and enjoy.
The Human Brain Project is one of the largest brain research projects in the world and, as a showcase of future and emerging technologies, is one of the largest projects ever funded by the EU. Katrin Amunts, Professor at the Cécile and Oskar Vogt Institute for Brain Research at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, gave an exciting presentation on the achievements of the project, which is now about to conclude its second specific grant agreement.
At the core of the Human Brain Project are 131 institutions in 19 countries, plus 40 partner projects. The project will develop EBRAINS, the world’s first integrated ICT infrastructure for brain research and development. For the third specific grant agreement, the sub-project structure will be transformed into a work package structure to enable closer links between neuroscience and technology.
In addition to the above-mentioned areas, the Human Brain Project has also conducted research on the elusive notion of consciousness in humans, animals, intelligent machines and organoids, tiny self-organised 3D tissue cultures derived from stem cells. Brain organoids, which provide insight into disease and brain development, could revolutionise the study of parts of the organ or the overall structure. However, the study of consciousness with the help of organoids also raises ethical questions and questions about the recording of consciousness.
Big Data: great responsibility and great success
The Human Brain Project initiative is driven by Big Data and open science. Big Data, for example, literally requires large amounts of data to solve the riddle of consciousness. Natalia Manola, OpenAIRE Managing Director at the Athena Research and Innovation Center of the University of Athens, explained the role of open science. Scientists committed to open science, Manola said, are fighting the coronavirus in the face of the international health emergency and deciphering the virus’ genetics with astonishing speed.
The afternoon event ended with a focus on “Big Data and Computer-Assisted Neuroscience”. By processing enormous amounts of data, computer-assisted modelling was able to explain, for example, the function of dendrites, the extensions of nerve cells that communicate with other neurons. Ultimately, Big Data can be used to determine what the individuality of each of us is. The Human Brain Project aims to provide insights into how precisely the brain is made up of genes, non-genetic biological influences, individual experiences and cultural influences. The results of the first research project are impressive, to say the least. Neurobiology research is eagerly awaiting the next phase.
This slightly abridged report was originally published on CORDIS