After attempting to create a brain micro simulation for almost a decade, Swiss neuroscientists have announced that they have succeeded in replicating the circuits of a small part of rat brain with the help of an extremely powerful computer. They said that the achievements of their effort have taken them closer to simulating the whole brain activity inside a computer.
These so-called “drafts” of the automated simulation of a younger rat’s neocortex includes over 30,000 nerves, 50 layers of brain tissues and over 200 different neuron types, according to the analysis released in the scientific publications.
As the results released this week have shown, the venture is one of the most complicated brain models copied until now. It has many more intricate statistical designs of each segment than past brain models.
The system provided by the Swiss scientists is the first important result for their ambitious project. It represents a collective effort started ten years ago and whose objective is to create a digital simulator of the human brain.
In the next years, this complex initiative wants to develop a complete copy of our brain by adding details based on the multidimensional shape of neurons and their scientific and electrical properties.
The system lately obtained by scientists has a small area of circuits incorporated into the animal’s main somatosensory cortex. This is a region of the brain that gets neurological data coming from the rodent’s sensitive whiskers and various parts of its body. Experts said that such advanced designs will help offering new information about the brain’s circuits and may open new methods to perform laboratory tests.
for the study, more than 30,000 brain cells were recreated virtually producing 35 million synapses. Scientists found that all digital actions of the brain cells were identical to the activities showed by real mice. This is the first installment of an area inside the neocortex and it is an incredible achievement, according to the neurologists.
In order to copy a rat’s brain in an efficient way, they classified the rat nerves into over 200 different types and organized them in a model similar to an actual brain. Although the research did not include blood tissues or cells, specialists said that their study works as a milestone in learning how the mind works.
The project opens the door for engineering artificial brains in the future, through animal tests, and wants to rebuild the whole brain inside a supercomputer. If successful, the research could create other possibilities to describe complex psychological phenomena, such as awareness and love.
But this task is not an easy one. According to the Swiss experts, the 30,000 cells used in this new study represent only 1/3 of a cubic mm in a rat’s neocortex. To succeed in fully rebuilding a brain, over 100 billion cells have to be linked through more than 1,000 trillion synaptic connections.
Aside from the complexity of the procedure, neuroscientists affirmed that this is also an extremely costly concept. A system as basic as a micro simulator might cost more than $100 million, while a complete copy of an entire rat brain could probably cost at least $20 billion. Besides related digital actions and scientific findings, the simulator offered some new ideas about thinking processes at molecular scale.
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