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Researchers Say They've Recreated Part of a Rat Brain Digitally

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A virtual brain slice.

Researchers from institutions around the world reported Thursday that they had built a reconstruction of a section of a rat brain in a computer.

Credit: Makram et al./Cell 2015

Researchers from institutions around the world disclosed on Thursday the successful digital reconstruction of a section of a rat brain.

Blue Brain Project leader Henry Markram describes the breakthrough as the first draft of a functioning map of 30,000 brain cells.

Instead of recording the details of every single cell in the brain section, the researchers used the data from some cells to infer what the whole would look like, and then modeled certain kinds of brain activity. They learned the simulation functioned like the living tissue.

The research was partly funded by Europe's Human Brain Project, while the Blue Brain Project aims to digitally reconstruct the rat brain and later the human brain. Kavli Neural Systems Institute director Cori Bargmann says the project is in an early stage, comparing it to the construction of a 747. "It's taxiing around the runway," she notes. "I haven't seen it fly yet, but it's promising."

Markram envisions a research tool capable of digitally encoding some characteristics of neurons and their linkages that are common to all brains.

From The New York Times
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