Innovatives Supercomputing in Deutschland
inSiDE • Vol. 11 No. 2 • Autumn 2013
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Jülich Supercomputing Centre contributes to visionary “Human Brain Project”

The goal of the Human Brain Project (HBP) [1] is to gather all existing knowledge about the human brain and to reconstruct the brain, piece by piece, in multiscale models and supercomputerbased simulations of these models. The resulting “virtual brain” offers the prospect of a fundamentally new understanding of the human brain and its diseases and of novel, brain-like computing technologies.

Figure 1: 3D reconstructed block face volume of a human brain with corresponding 3D fiber orientation maps obtained with Polarized Light Imaging (PLI). The pane in the upper right shows tracked fiber tubes. (Source: Axer, Amunts et al., INM, Forschungszentrum Jülich)

The HBP will develop a research infrastructure consisting of six so-called ICT (Information & Communication Technology) Platforms, dedicated respectively to Neuroinformatics, Medical Informatics, Brain Simulation, Neuromorphic Computing, Neurorobotics, and High-Performance Computing. Together, these platforms will make it possible to federate neuroscience data from all over the world, to integrate the data in unifying models and simulations of the brain, to validate the results against empirical data from biology and medicine, and to make them available to the world scientific community. The resulting knowledge on the structure and connectivity of the brain will open up new perspectives for the development of “neuromorphic” computing systems incorporating unique characteristics of the brain such as energy-efficiency, fault-tolerance and the ability to learn. The HBP’s models and simulations will enable researchers to carry out in silico experiments on the human brain that cannot be done in vivo for practical or ethical reasons.

Starting from October 2013, the European Commission supports this vision through its FET (Future & Emerging Technologies) Flagship Initiative [2]. The 2.5-year ramp-up phase of the project (until March 2016) is funded by the EU’s 7th Framework Programme. It will be followed by a partially overlapping operational phase under the EU’s next Framework Programme, Horizon 2020. Federating more than 80 European and international research institutions, the HBP as a whole is planned to last ten years and estimated to cost one billion Euros. Additional partners will join the HBP consortium from 2014 by way of an open Competitive Call Programme [3]. The project is coordinated by Prof. Henry Markram from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.

Forschungszentrum Jülich’s expertise and infrastructure in both neuroscience (e.g. in the areas of brain mapping tools, brain activity, large-scale neural network simulations) and supercomputing will make a major contribution to the project. Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC) leads the HBP’s High-Performance Computing Platform subproject that will provide the supercomputing hard- and software capabilities necessary to simulate cellular brain models of the size of a complete human brain. JSC’s central task will be to develop and host the HBP Supercomputer, the project’s main production system, which will be built in stages to finally reach exascale performance.

Reference

[1] http://www.humanbrainproject.eu

[2] http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/programme/fet/flagship/home_en.html

[3] http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/participate/competitive-calls-programme

• Thomas Lippert
• Boris Orth
Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC)


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