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Huge 'Human Brain Project' Set To Begin

Landmark Project Aims To Enhance Our Understanding Of How The Brain Works


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

An innovative new programme that aims to improve our understanding of how the brain functions has been launched in Switzerland.

'The Human Brain Project' (HBP) is backed by the EU and will cost in the region of £1 billion.

Lasting for ten years, the initiative will bring together 135 of Europe's leading scientists, who hope to develop a supercomputer that provides an accurate simulation of the brain.

They also plan to compile a massive database that will hold details of thousands of neuroscience papers published each year. Director of the HBP Henry Markram explained why this work is so important:

"We should begin to understand what makes the human brain unique, the basic mechanisms behind cognition and behaviour, how to objectively diagnose brain diseases and to build new technologies inspired by how the brain computes," he commented.

The HBP will make "fundamental contributions to neuroscience, to medicine and to future computing technology", according to its official website.

It could lead to the development of new devices and gadgets that have "brain-like intelligence". It will also use neuroinformatics and brain simulation to integrate experimental data, helping scientists to fill any gaps in their knowledge.

In addition to this, the HBP will identify biological signatures of brain disease, potentially allowing doctors to diagnose brain conditions much earlier and possibly paving the way for more advanced drugs and treatments.

Medical professionals could finally discover why patients act in certain ways after suffering a serious brain injury.

According to statistics provided by Headway, the Brain Injury Association, a minimum of one million people are currently living with the long-term effects of a brain injury in the UK.

There has been a 33.5 per cent increase in the number of people being admitted to hospital with head problems in the past decade, with between 10,000 and 20,000 people suffering traumatic brain injuries each year.

Doctors will hope the HBP can unearth new treatments to help patients cope with the consequences of head injuries, eliminating common effects such as depression, anxiety, anger issues, memory loss and coordination problems.

Expert Opinion
The more we understand about how the brain works, the more we can figure out how to help those who suffer severe head injuries.

Treatment and rehabilitation for people suffering from brain injury has improved considerably in the past decade, becoming more and more effective all the time.

Early rehabilitation from injuries is proven to have the greatest chance of having an effect on acquired brain injury and hopefully by learning more about the brain we can find out how to tailor the treatments to achieve the biggest impact."
Neil Whiteley, Partner