Human Brain Project wins major EU funding

28 January 2013

Active brain

The Human Brain Project has been officially selected as one of the European Commission’s two FET Flagship projects. The new project will unite European efforts to address one of the greatest challenges of modern science: understanding the human brain.

The goal of the Human Brain Project is to pull together all our existing knowledge about the human brain and to reconstruct the brain, piece by piece, in supercomputer-based models and simulations.

The models offer the prospect of a new understanding of the human brain and its diseases and of completely new computing and robotic technologies.

The Human Brain Project is planned to last ten years (2013-2023). The cost is estimated at 1.19 billion euros.

More than 80 European and international research institutions are involved in the project, including UCL groups led by Professor Alex Thomson (UCL School of Pharmacy), Professor Neil Burgess (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) and Professor John Ashburner (UCL Institute of Neurology).

The project will also associate some important North American and Japanese partners. It will be coordinated at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, by neuroscientist Henry Markram with co-directors Karlheinz Meier of Heidelberg University, Germany, and Richard Frackowiak (a former UCL Vice-Provost) from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) and the University of Lausanne (UNIL).

The brain is both the most exquisitely beautiful and efficient machine and the most frustratingly difficult to understand. Only a multi-dimensional approach can hope to render its complexity accessible to therapy and imitation.

Professor Alex Thomson

Professor Alex Thomson, who studies the synaptic circuitry that underpins many models of the brain, said: “The brain is both the most exquisitely beautiful and efficient machine and the most frustratingly difficult to understand. Only a multi-dimensional approach can hope to render its complexity accessible to therapy and imitation.”

Professor Malcolm Grant, UCL President & Provost, said: “By funding the Human Brain Project the European Commission has proved their commitment to funding large scale science research. UCL’s role in the Human Brain Project will strengthen and further develop the world-leading research already underway here in the fields of neurology and neuroscience.”

Researchers hope to better understand the energy efficiency of the human brain, and use this knowledge towards the development of biologically inspired computers. Such devices could have a major impact on industry.

Another major goal of the Human Brain Project is to generate tools and infrastructure for the research community and catalyse the development of new treatments for brain disease.

Clinicians involved with the project will study patients with brain diseases, which cost the European Union more than €800 billion each year.

The Human Brain Project is the world's largest brain research programme and more than 20 UK research teams in academia and industry will be involved in the start of the project.

The selection of the Human Brain Project as a FET Flagship is the result of more than three years of preparation and a rigorous and severe evaluation by a large panel of independent, high profile scientists, chosen by the European Commission.

In the coming months, the partners will negotiate a detailed agreement with the Community for the initial first two and a half year ramp-up phase (2013-mid 2016). The project will begin work in the closing months of 2013.


UCL media contact: Clare Ryan


Links:

Human Brain Project
European Commission