IBM has joined forces with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in an effort to map the human brain for the first time.
The project will use one of IBM's eServer Blue Gene supercomputers to map the precise circuitry of the brain, starting with the neocortex which controls language, learning, memory and complex thought.
"Modelling the brain at the cellular level is a massive undertaking because of the hundreds of thousands of parameters that need to be taken into account," said Henry Markram, the EPFL professor heading up the project.
"With our combined resources and expertise we are embarking on one of the most ambitious research initiatives ever undertaken in the field of neuroscience."
The team is hoping that by accurately modelling the electro-chemical reactions in the brain they will get a better idea of how to repair damaged sections of matter, and explain the link between genetic, molecular and cognitive levels of brain function.
Some computer time will also be allotted to researching other projects at EPFL. These include designing carbon nanotubes, using plasma as a future source of energy production, and modelling protein behaviour.
"Blue Gene is by far the fastest supercomputing system in the world, giving scientists access to unprecedented levels of computing power," said Tilak Agerwala, vice president of systems at IBM Research.
"What really matters is not the power itself, but how it is applied to accelerate innovation and discovery in science, engineering and business."
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